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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abkhazia Blockade Threatened

Russia on Wednesday told Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia to hold a rerun of its presidential election or face an economic blockade.

Subsidies from Moscow and cross-border trade with Russia are the only source of income for Abkhazia, whose independence has not been internationally recognized.

"The Russian leadership supports Ardzinba's ... decision to hold a new vote to elect the leader of Abkhazia," said Gennady Bukayev, a senior aide to Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.

"The Abkhaz president's decision does not suit [independent candidate Sergei] Bagapsh and criminal groups behind him, which are striving to seize power in the republic with the use of arms," he said in remarks broadcast by state-run Rossia television.

Abkhazia was plunged into turmoil in October, when Bagapsh accused Kremlin protege Raul Khadzhimba of election fraud. Bagapsh was declared the winner after a recount.

Under pressure from Moscow, ailing Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba has ordered a rerun of the election despite rulings by the Central Elections Commission, the Supreme Court and parliament in favor of Bagapsh.

Bagapsh has defied Ardzinba's orders and says he intends to go ahead with his inauguration Dec. 6.

Many analysts see similarities between the Abkhaz crisis and post-election turmoil in Ukraine, where allegations of election fraud have triggered street protests against Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-backed presidential candidate.

Bukayev said Moscow would impose an economic blockade on Abkhazia if Bagapsh goes ahead with his inauguration plans.

"If Bagapsh continues his unconstitutional activities, fraught with heavy consequences for the republic, the border with Abkhazia will be sealed off," he said. "These sanctions ... will be lifted immediately if the situation becomes stable."

Bukayev said Russia has started reinforcing security on the border with Abkhazia and will cut railway links with the region from Thursday.