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Leader of Georgia’s breakaway province of Abkhazia resigns

January 13, 2020 GMT
Protesters besiege the offices of Abkhazia President Raul Khadzhimba in the city of Sukhumi, in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. The demonstrators are demanding the resignation of Raul Khadzhimba, who was re-elected Abkhazia's president in September 2019, and some demonstrators scuffled with guards as they tried to break into the presidential administration building. (AP Photo)
Protesters besiege the offices of Abkhazia President Raul Khadzhimba in the city of Sukhumi, in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. The demonstrators are demanding the resignation of Raul Khadzhimba, who was re-elected Abkhazia's president in September 2019, and some demonstrators scuffled with guards as they tried to break into the presidential administration building. (AP Photo)

MOSCOW (AP) — Legislators in Georgia’s breakaway province of Abkhazia on Monday accepted the resignation of the region’s leader, who stepped down under pressure from the opposition.

Opposition protesters seized the presidential office last week and demanded Raul Khadzhimba’s resignation over alleged violations in September’s election in which Khadzhimba won a second five-year term as Abkhazia’s president.

Khadzhimba initially denounced the move as a coup attempt, but submitted his resignation Sunday “for the sake of peace and stability.” He acted after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide, Vladislav Surkov, arrived in the capital, Sukhumi, to help mediate the conflict.

Abkhazia’s parliament called new elections for March. It named the region’s prime minister, Valery Bganba, as caretaker president.

Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union collapsed. Moscow has tightened its control over the lush Black Sea province and a second breakaway Georgian region, South Ossetia, after a brief war with Georgia in 2008.

Russia recognizes both regions as independent nations and deploys its military there despite international condemnation.