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Georgia Says Russia Sending Troops To Abkhazia

16 October 2004 -- Georgia today accused Russia of smuggling troops into Abkhazia, warning that the move may further destabilize the situation in the separatist Black Sea province.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had gathered intelligence showing several hundred Russian elite forces had entered Abkhazia after this month's disputed presidential polls. It also demanded their immediate withdrawal.

Russia today denied the claims, saying they had "nothing to do with reality."

Abkhazia's 3 October presidential election has triggered one of the worst political crises in the breakaway province since it won de facto independence from Georgia in the early 1990s with Russia's help.

Election officials have declared opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh the winner of the polls, but government candidate Raul Khadjimba claims the election was fraudulent and demands that a new vote be held.

(Novosti-Gruziya/Civil Georgia/Rustavi-2)