A senior Russian diplomat in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region has been killed by an unidentified assailant, Russian news agencies report.

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

"Those who thought up and carried out this awful crime are enemies of the people of Abkhazia," Abkhazia's foreign ministry said in a statement.

 

Vishernev's wife was also seriously injured during an incident, the statement said.

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

A spokesperson for the separatist authority's interior ministry told Russia's Interfax agency that evidence gathered at the scene indicated that the killing was a "terrorist attack".

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 recognised Abkhazia and another rebel province, South Ossetia, as independent nations after fighting a five-day war with Georgia in 2008, angering NATO and the US.

Russia maintains troops in both regions. Only a few other countries consider them independent states.

Georgia has been looking to improve relations with Russia and its own breakaway regions since the party of President Mikheil Saakashvili, a staunch US ally, lost parliamentary polls in October to a coalition headed by Bidzina Ivanishvili, the current prime minister.

Source: Agencies