Russia expresses concern about Abkhazia unrest

MOSCOW Wed May 28, 2014 8:35am EDT

Demonstrators gather at the presidential headquarters in Sukhumi, the capital of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia May 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Nina Zotina

Demonstrators gather at the presidential headquarters in Sukhumi, the capital of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia May 28, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Nina Zotina

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia expressed concern on Wednesday over unrest in Abkhazia, where demonstrators have seized control of the presidential administration headquarters in what the leader of the Moscow-backed breakaway province of Georgia called an attempted coup.

On Tuesday opposition protesters broke windows and doors to take control of the presidential building, while others held talks with President Alexander Ankvab after several thousand gathered in the capital of the Black Sea region to vent their anger at its government about alleged corruption and misrule.

"The Russian side is following events closely and with concern ... and considers it important that socio-political processes develop exclusively along legal lines," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Abkhazia broke from Georgian rule in a 1992-1993 war after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moscow recognized it as an independent state after Russia fought a five-day war with Georgia in 2008, and at the same time strengthened control over the region and another breakaway province, South Ossetia.

Vladislav Surkov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who is in charge of ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, may travel to Abkhazia, Russian news agency Interfax reported.

Opposition supporters continued to control the administration building in the capital, Sukhumi, and also the state television station, Interfax reported, though Ankvab said on Tuesday that attempts to seize the station had been quashed.

"We still have a chance to return the situation to a legal footing. From a legal point of view what is happening now is an attempted armed coup," Ankvab said on Tuesday at the meeting with opposition representatives.

Raul Khadzhimba, an opposition leader who lost a presidential election to Ankvab in 2011, said the president had agreed to dismiss his cabinet but Russian media reported that opponents are pressing Ankvab himself to step down.

Ankvab "took upon himself everybody's responsibilities ... That led to our country becoming essentially an authoritarian regime," Khadzhimba said on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; editing by David Stamp)

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