Russian MPs back breakaway regions
State Duma urges Kremlin to recognise the independence of two Georgian provinces.
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2008 08:58 GMT
Abkhazia called for international recognition shortly after Kosovo declared independence [EPA]
Russia's parliament has called for the Kremlin to consider recognising the independence of two provinces hoping to breakaway from neighbouring Georgia.

The State Duma on Friday overwhelmingly backed the non-binding declaration urging support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which broke from the Tbilisi government during wars in the early 1990s.
The motion said that Western recognition of the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, a close ally of Russia, had ripped up international rules regarding Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Shortly after Kosovo declared independence, the Abkhazian parliament issued its own call for recognition.
Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, has previously suggested that his country might recognise Abkhazia and three other "breakaway states" on former Soviet soil if Kosovo was granted independence.

Georgia angered

Georgian leaders responded angry to the Russian parliament's move.

"The State Duma adopted an aggressive and hostile decision," Konstantine Gabashvili, the head of the foreign relations committee of the Georgian parliament, said on Georgian Public Television.
"The State Duma adopted an aggressive and hostile decision"

Konstantine Gabashvili, 
head of Georgia's foreign relations committee
Nicoloz Rurua, another member of the Georgian parliament, said: "Such statements by Russian parliament will only speed up Georgia's Nato membership as they demonstrate how real is the threat coming from Russia."

Moscow appears determined to prevent the former Soviet state from joining the Nato military alliance.

George Bush, the US president, has assured Mikhail Saakashvili, his Georgian counterpart this week that the US would press for Georgia to be granted a "membership action plan".

Russia's parliament is dominated by Putin supporters and it is unlikely that the motion would have been debated without the Kremlin's knowledge.

It comes as the president is preparing to attend a Nato-Russia summit in Bucharest next month at which Georgia's membership of the alliance will be one of the items discussed.

Parliamentarians said recognition should be speeded up if steps were taken towards Georgia joining Nato or if it used force to try to regain control over the territories.

Russian peacekeepers

The motion also urged the Kremlin to consider an increase in the presence of Russian troops, who are deployed in both provinces as peacekeepers.

Noting that most residents in both regions have been given Russian passports, the parliament called for "boosting efforts to ensure security for Russian citizens".

It also urged Putin to open diplomatic "missions" in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russian support has been a lifeline for Abkhazia for many years, a fact that has irked Georgia and been a key factor in the poor relations between Moscow and Tbilisi.
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