Abkhazia's president resigns before early elections

MOSCOW Sun Jun 1, 2014 5:33pm BST

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Alexander Ankvab, the head of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, resigned on Sunday, just a day after the local parliament voted to hold early presidential elections in August, a spokeswoman for the president said.

"The president decided (to resign) in order to prevent the situation from worsening," she said, adding that Valery Bganba, the speaker of the regional parliament, would be acting president until the vote on Aug. 24. The government resigned as well.

Whoever leads Abkhazia, the province in the Black Sea region is likely to maintain close ties with Moscow, on which it depends for political and economic assistance.

The resignation followed unrest by street protesters, who accused Ankvab of corruption and misrule. Demonstrators stormed into the presidential headquarters on Tuesday, when the opposition vented its anger at the government and demanded reforms.

The opposition leaders formed a Provisional National Council, which they said on Friday was in control.

The vote on Saturday for early elections was backed by 23 of the 24 members of the 35-seat parliament who were present, even though Prime Minister Leonid Lakerbaya denounced it as "revolutionary" after the opposition seized control.

Abkhazia and another Georgian region, South Ossetia, were the focal point of a war between Georgia and Russia in 2008 and now rely on Moscow's finances.

(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin)

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