Originally posted at 14:54
MOSCOW, September 9 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian diplomat working at Moscow’s embassy in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia was shot dead Monday morning, according to local law enforcement officials.
Dmitry Vishernyov, first secretary at Russia’s embassy in the regional capital Sukhumi, was killed by a gunshot to the head in the garage of his home at about 8:30 a.m., local police said. His wife was wounded in the attack and is now in hospital, a law enforcement source said.
An explosive device attached to a mobile phone was also found at the scene, a source in the regional Prosecutor’s Office told RIA Novosti.
The Russian ambassador in Sukhumi confirmed Vishernyov’s death.
“Investigative activities are underway. The embassy is keeping the situation under control,” ambassador Semyon Grigoryev told RIA Novosti.
The regional Prosecutor’s Office has opened a criminal case into the killing, he said.
The Russian Investigative Committee said its investigators were gathering information and may soon travel to Abkhazia’s capital, Sukhumi. Officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) are already assisting Abkhaz law enforcement officials in their investigation.
Abkhazia de facto broke away from Georgia following a war in 1992-93, and was formally recognized as independent of Tbilisi by Russia in 2008 following a conflict in another breakaway Georgian region, South Ossetia. Russia has been a close ally of Abkhazia in its drive for independence and has a security assistance agreement with Sukhumi.
Political violence is not unknown in Abkhazia. In February 2012, unknown assassins tried to kill the republic’s President Alexander Ankvab in a gun and bomb attack on his motorcade.
Ankvab on Monday assumed personal control over the investigation into the Russian diplomat’s death and held an emergency meeting with law enforcement officers. He expressed his condolences to Vishernyov’s relatives and co-workers.
The Abkhaz parliament said in a statement that its members saw the incident “not just as a criminal offence, but as a gunshot into our friendship with Russia,” lawmakers said in a joint statement.
Both the Abkhaz and Russian foreign ministries described the killing as an evident attempt to weaken close ties between Moscow and the former Georgian republic.
“The Abkhaz Foreign Ministry sees the incident as a move to undermine strategic and brotherly Russian-Abkhaz relations, as a provocation designed to entail various consequences, including political ones,” the ministry said in a statement. “Those who masterminded and committed this heinous crime are enemies of the people of Abkhazia and of our country’s future.”
Moscow replied by saying that it shared the opinion expressed by Sukhumi officials.
“Together with our Abkhaz colleagues we consider the cold-blooded killing of the Russian diplomat and an attempt on his wife’s life as a gruesome atrocity, directed at undermining friendly Russian-Abkhaz relations, peace and stability in Abkhazia and the region as a whole,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Updated with reaction of Russian and Abkhaz authorities in Paragraphs 7 and 10-15
Add to blog
You may place this material on your blog by copying the link.
Iran has been a central Russian ally in the Middle East, despite considerable tensions between the two. But by renewing dialogue with the West, the new Iranian leadership has chosen another direction. The shifting terrain in the region creates new strategic, political and economic challenges for Russia.