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Leader Of Georgia's Breakaway Region Called On To Resign Amid Political Crisis

The leader of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, said he was ready to step down as leader if "people are demanding my resignation." (file photo)

TSKHINVALI, Georgia -- The former leader of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity, has called on the region's current leader, Anatoly Bibilov, to resign amid a political crisis sparked by the death of a man in custody.

In a video statement on Facebook on August 31, Kokoity said that he is currently in Russia's North Caucasus region of North Ossetia and accused Bibilov of "launching a war against his own people."

"You are doing everything to prevent my visit in South Ossetia. You will not succeed in that. I will be in South Ossetia. However, if you are so afraid of that, I give you my word: I will not come to South Ossetia, if you, by noon on August 31, resign and stop torturing the Ossetian people," Kokoity addressed Bibilov.

Local media reports said earlier that Kokoity has been barred from entering South Ossetia.

Kokoity's statement came three days after South Ossetia's government resigned in the wake of protests in the regional capital, Tskhinvali, after a 28-year-old man died in a hospital of severe injuries he sustained while being held in custody.

Inal Jabiyev was arrested on August 26 on suspicion of involvement in shooting at a car belonging to the breakaway region's de facto interior minister, Igor Naniyev, on August 17.

He was rushed to a hospital from police detention on August 28, where he died.

Photos of his body revealing severe injuries were shared by many in the region via social media. Hundreds gathered in front of the hospital on that day after information spread that authorities were hesitant to hand Jabiyev's body over to his relatives.

Bibilov met with the protesters and promised that those responsible for Jabiyev's death would be punished, but his pledge did little to satisfy the protesters, who continued to demand the leader's resignation.

He said he was ready to step down as leader if "people are demanding my resignation," adding that he is open to holding a no-confidence vote if need be.

Later that day, his de facto cabinet resigned.

Russia recognized South Ossetia and Georgia’s other breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent nations after Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in August 2008.

Kokoity led the region between 2001 and 2011.

Bibilov was elected as de facto president of the region in 2017.