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Russian diplomat shot dead in breakaway Georgian region

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A senior Russian diplomat in Georgia's Moscow-backed breakaway Abkhazia region was shot dead on Monday by an unidentified gunman, Russian news agencies reported.

The first secretary of the Russian embassy in Abkhazia, Dmitry Vishernev, was shot at close range as he drove out of a garage at his temporary home in the Black Sea region's main city, Sukhumi, Interfax reported.

There was no immediate word on a possible motive, and the Russia Foreign Ministry declined comment.

Abkhazia, a lush coastal region that has a reputation for crime and corruption, broke from Georgian government control in a war that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and another rebel province, South Ossetia, as independent nations after fighting a five-day war with Georgia in 2008, angering NATO and the United States, and Moscow maintains troops in both regions. Only a few other countries consider them independent states.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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