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Conflicting reports coming from Georgia-Abkhazia conflict zone

18:45 21/05/2008
TBILISI, May 21 (RIA Novosti) - Conflicting information is coming from the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone, following reports of gunfire along the border and bus explosions that left several people injured.

Georgia's Interior Minister accused Abkhazia Wednesday of blowing up two buses and being involved in a shootout along the border.

"We confirm that two buses were blown up in today's incident in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone. There are no reports of fatalities, but there is information that the injured are being taken to Zugdidi hospital," a deputy Georgian interior minister told journalists.

But Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh dismissed the Georgian media reports: "No such thing happened," adding that according to his information, the incidents had occurred on Georgian rather than Abkhaz territory.

Other media sources said that the two buses had come under Abkhaz gunfire.

Abkhazia is one of Georgia's two breakaway de facto independent republics, along with South Ossetia, that broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Tensions have escalated between Georgia and Abkhazia recently following the shooting down of a number of Georgian surveillance planes. Both sides have accused each other of preparing for armed conflict.

The Georgian ministry also said that the authorities in the breakaway republic had prevented Georgians living in Abkhazia's Gali District from participating in Wednesday's parliamentary polls.

Sergei Bagapash denied the claims saying that Georgians living in the area had shown no interest in casting their vote.

Abkhazia said Russian peacekeepers had been sent to the border between Georgia and Abkhazia to prevent a further escalation in violence.

"Representatives of Russian peacekeepers and UN military observer missions have headed to the site to clarify the reports [of the shooting]," the Abkhaz presidential envoy in the Gali District told RIA Novosti.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have drastically deteriorated since Russia's former president Vladimir Putin called for closer ties between Moscow and the two breakaway republics in mid-April.

Georgia has accused Russia of trying to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while Moscow says Tbilisi is planning to invade Abkhazia.

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RIA NovostiConflicting reports coming from Georgia-Abkhazia conflict zone

18:45 21/05/2008 Conflicting information is coming from the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone, following reports of gunfire along the border and bus explosions that left several people injured. >>

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