Georgia’s rebel region Abkhazia has been voting in parliamentary elections, a ballot condemned as illegal by Tblisi.
The region has been trying to breakaway from Georgia since a conflict in the early 1990s. Moscow is said to be supporting independence for Abkhazia.
Abkhazia’s President Sergei Bagapsh, who cast his vote in the capital Sukhumi, said: “The international community should understand there are proper democratic institutions here, including the opposition, the media and free and fair elections.”
Voting is continuing in 191 polling stations except in the district of Kodori Gorge which is under Georgian control.
The Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili made his government’s position clear. “The act of lawlessness being committed in Abkhazia will never be recognised by anyone, because nearly half a million people have been evicted from Abkhazia with foreign assistance. Less than 100,000 remain.” Overnight Georgian citizens held demonstrations against the election along the Abkhazia-Georgian border.