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Abkhaz Opposition Leader Criticizes Russian Sanctions

Sukhum, 2 December 2004 -- The official winner of last October's disputed presidential election in Abkhazia today criticized a Russian decision to impose economic sanctions against the Black Sea region, describing it as a "regrettable" move.

Talking to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service from Sukhum, Sergei Bagapsh said that the measures are already affecting Akhazia's economy: "Any toughening of border-crossing procedures has a negative effect on our citizens. Already today, they have stopped letting through goods, tangerines, citrus fruits -- things our citizens usually take to [the Russian city of] Adler [to sell]. Goods are practically not allowed to be imported into Abkhazia [from Russia] either."

Russia yesterday said it had decided to suspend a direct railway link between Moscow and Sukhum and strengthen border controls with Abkhazia. It also announced that it would stop importing agriculture products from Abkhazia.

The measure aims at forcing the hand of Bagapsh, whom Moscow refuses to recognize as the new leader of Abkhazia. Russia, which supports the outgoing administration, has threatened to seal its border with Abkhazia should Bagapsh go ahead with his planned inauguration on 6 December.

(RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service)