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Georgian Minister, Acting U.S. Ambassador Discuss Georgian Man's Death In Breakaway Abkhazia

Georgian Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili (file photo)

TBILISI -- Georgia's Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality has held talks with acting U.S. Ambassador to Tbilisi Ross Wilson about the death of a Georgian man in the custody of separatist officials in the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Ketevan Tsikhelashvili said after the March 14 meeting that forensic tests were under way to find the cause of 29-year-old Irakli Kvaratskhelia's death, which Abkhazia's de facto officials and Russian border guards have called a suicide.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke from Georgia's central government control in a war in the early 1990s.

After a war against Tbilisi in 2008, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and keeps its armed forces in the two regions, but the international community overwhelmingly recognizes the two territories as part of Georgia.

Abkhazia's borders are guarded by the Russian military. The Russian border guards service in the region told RFE/RL that Kvaratskhelia hanged himself while in custody on March 10, hours after he was detained for allegedly crossing the line of control between Georgia and Abkhazia.

Separatist Abkhaz officials handed the man's body to the Georgian side on March 13.

Tsikhelashvili said earlier that Kvaratskhelia's death will be thoroughly investigated.

"It is important for us to establish the precise circumstances of his death. A probe will be launched to investigate those circumstances," Tsikhelashvili told the Imedi television channel on March 13.

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said earlier that Tbilisi was informed about Kvaratskhelia's death via the European Union's monitoring mission.

"We will use all possible means to keep the international community informed of this outrageous fact", Zalkaliani told journalists on March 13.

Last year, another Georgian man, Archil Tatunashvili, died under unclear circumstances while in custody in Georgia's other breakaway region -- South Ossetia.

Russia-backed separatist authorities in South Ossetia said then that Tatunashvili was detained on suspicion of intending to conduct a terrorist attack in the region and died of heart failure after he allegedly attacked police as they tried to move him to a detention cell.

In 2016, 31-year-old Georgian citizen Giga Otkhozoria was shot dead by Russian troops patrolling the area near the boundary.