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Abkhaz Opposition Leader Reportedly Hospitalized During Russia Visit


Aslan Bzhania's team says he was put into an artificially induced coma.

SUKHUMI, Georgia -- An opposition presidential candidate in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia is now feeling well after being hospitalized in Russia for unclear reasons, his team says.

Aslan Bzhania's team said on March 5 that Bzhania flew from Moscow to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi three days earlier and was hospitalized there because he felt unwell.

Bzhania was later put into an artificially induced coma and transported to the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, his team said.

Russian media reports have reported that Bzhania was diagnosed with "poisoning with an unknown substance," an allegation rejected by Abkhazia’s de facto acting president, Valery Bganba, as being part of "attempts to destabilize" the separatist region.

Media in Abkhazia said Bzhania was hospitalized for "multisegmental pneumonia."

Bzhania's campaigners said he met with Abkhaz de facto Deputy Prime Minister Adgur Ardzinba in Krasnodar on March 5 to discuss the "social and political situation in the region" ahead of an early presidential election scheduled for March 22.

Ardzinba, along with the separatist government's former interior minister, Leonid Dzapshba, is also a presidential candidate. Both suspended their campaign following Bzhania's hospitalization.

The former leader of the breakaway region, Raul Khajimba, resigned in January following four days of opposition protests in the regional capital, Sukhumi.

The breakaway region's parliament named de facto Prime Minister Bganba as acting president and announced that the cabinet would remain in place until a new leader was elected.

Abkhazia and Georgia's other breakaway region of South Ossetia have been recognized as independent states by Moscow after a short Russian-Georgian war in 2008.

Georgia and most of the international community consider both regions to be occupied territories.

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