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PM of Breakaway Georgian Region Of Abkhazia Dies In Auto Accident

Gennady Gagulia appears at a press conference in August 2017.

The prime minister of the Russia-backed breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia has died in an automobile accident, the separatist government says.

The region's press office on September 8 said 70-year-old Gennady Gagulia died on the road between Psou in the south of Russia and Sukhumi in the breakaway region. Differing reports make it unclear whether his driver and any security guards were injured.

Russian state-run TASS news agency said Gagulia had been traveling with a delegation returning from Syria.

Syria in May agreed to recognize Abkhazia and a second breakaway Georgian region, South Ossetia, as independent countries.

The regions' claims of independence from Georgia came following separatist wars in the early 1990s.

After a brief war with Tbilisi in 2008, Russia recognized Abkhazia as independent and has since stepped up its military presence there.

The vast majority of countries rejects the regions' independence claims and considers them part of Georgia.

Abkhazia is ruled by President Raul Khajimba, who in 2014 won the region's presidential election, which the central government in Georgia called illegal.

TASS reported that Khajimba expressed his condolences to Gagulia's family. Khajimba said he was in the same motorcade but was not injured.

According to local reports, Gagulia assumed the post in April and had previously been the prime minister from 1995-97 and 2002-03.

In June, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding that Russia reverse its "decision to recognize the so-called independence of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

The declaration also called on Russia to "cease its occupation" of the two breakaway regions and "fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, as well as the inviolability of its internationally recognized borders, and that it stop the de facto integration of both regions into the Russian administration."

With reporting by AFP, TASS, REN TV, and
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