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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Plane Trouble Grounds South Ossetian Leader

The leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia failed to kick off weekend visits to Nicaragua and Venezuela — two of the few countries that have recognized the independence of the separatist Georgian regions — after ending up in other countries.

South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity made an unscheduled stop in Finland on Saturday after his private jet was forced to land at the Helsinki airport because of technical problems.

Helsinki airport spokeswoman Annika Kala said Kokoity left on Sunday afternoon on another aircraft.

Finnish media reported that 15 people were on board the aircraft, including Kokoity.

Meanwhile, Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh abruptly decided to stay in Cuba for talks with local officials after his jet landed in Havana for a scheduled refueling stop, RIA-Novosti reported.

Bagapsh and Kokoity plan to sign trade and friendship agreements during their visits to Nicaragua and Venezuela, the report said.

In 2008, Georgia lost control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after a short war with Russia, which maintains a strong military presence in both regions.

(MT, AP)