Vladislav Ardzinba, first leader of Abkhazia, dies
Associated Press
2010-03-04 03:01 PM
A doctor says Vladislav Ardzinba, the first leader of the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia, has died. He was 64.

Ardzinba's doctor, Anzor Gooz, said Ardzinba died in a Moscow clinic Thursday. He did not give the cause of death.

A prominent Middle Eastern scholar, Ardzinba was named the head of Abkhazia shortly before the Soviet collapse.

He proclaimed the independence of the Black Sea province in 1992 after a bloody war with the Georgian government and orchestrated a massive ethnic cleansing campaign.

In 1994, the Abkhazian parliament elected Ardzinba president. He secured Abkhazia's de facto independence by establishing close ties with Moscow.

He was re-elected in 1999, but resigned in 2004 due to deteriorating health.

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