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Citizens of Abkhazia Strive to Shape Sovereign Nation

Special correspondent Kira Kay reports on the political tensions within Georgia's breakaway province Abkhazia. This report was produced in partnership with The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and The Bureau for International Reporting, and is a co-production with HDNet.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Our second report is from the breakaway province of Abkhazia. Recently, special correspondent Kira Kay traveled there. Here is her report from a place the rest of the world has rarely seen.

  • KIRA KAY, NewsHour Special Correspondent:

    The only way into Abkhazia is by United Nations airlift. We were entering a country that does not officially exist. Permission first had to come from the Abkhaz, who are in de facto control. They even issued us visas.

    We were granted rare access here just days before the war between Georgia and Russia broke out. Everything seemed peaceful, but beneath the surface the political tensions here are just as strong as in Georgia's other breakaway territory, South Ossetia.

    That is because the people of Abkhazia also want their independence. But Georgia, a strong U.S. ally, insists Abkhazia stay within its borders.

  • SERGEI BAGAPSH, President, Abkhazia (through translator):

    We are ready to live next to one another, to build normal relations as two independent governments. But we will never be part of Georgia again.

  • KIRA KAY:

    Sergei Bagapsh is Abkhazia's leader. He calls himself president, since he believes he is running a sovereign nation. Bagapsh explained to me the historical context behind his territory's claim to independence.

  • SERGEI BAGAPSH (through translator):

    In the Soviet times, as you probably already know, during the time of Stalin and the Soviet Union, our republic was transferred to become part of Georgia. And during that Soviet period, for some 50 years, we continued to fight for our independence.