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Abkhazia Dismisses 'Interior Minister' In Response To Protests

Former Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshba
Former Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshba

Opposition protesters in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia have attempted to storm the de facto government’s Interior Ministry building to demand the resignation of the territory’s top police official.

The estimated 1,500 demonstrators broke down gates surrounding the building in the regional capital of Sukhumi on July 5 and clashed with police as they called for the removal of Leonid Dzapshba, the Russian-backed region’s self-styled interior minister.

Top members of the region’s leadership arrived at the scene and urged the demonstrators to remain calm.

Early July 6, Abkhazian television announced that Dzapshba had been dismissed by President Raul Khajimba, and Khajimba was negotiating with protesters on their other demands.

Opposition forces in Abkhazia have called Khajimba’s rise two years ago unconstitutional and called for him to postpone a July 10 referendum on whether to hold an early presidential election.

They have also criticized Dzapshba for failing to effectively fight crime in the region.

Khajimba said on Abkhazian television that he would not postpone the referendum, claiming that would break the law as a decree already has been signed.

He said, however, he would meet the opposition's demand to allow people with expired passports to vote in the referendum.

Following meetings with protesters late into the night, Khajimba said negotiations would continue later on July 6 on other demands. He said he was thankful the protests disbanded without any bloodshed.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and another separatist Georgian region, South Ossetia, as independent nations after a five-day war with Georgia in 2008.

Russia has kept thousands of troops in both regions since the war.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ekho Kavkaza, Interfax, and TASS
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