'Old game'

Meanwhile, Temur Yakobashvili, Georgia's deputy prime minister and reintegration minister, said "I think it would be better if the Russian president were focused on domestic problems. I think maybe he is trying to distract attention."

"They are still playing a game that they have lost. These territories are now recognised as occupied territories and these kinds of trips will not change that or add anything positive to the region," he told the AFP news agency.

Since Moscow's recognition of its independence, Abkhazia has been boosted by significant Russian aid and tourists.

However, lack of wider international recognition has held back its economy.

Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru are the only other states to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent republics.

The August 2008 war saw Russian forces enter Georgia after fighting broke out over South Ossetia, and later over Abkhazia, prompting the worst post-Cold War crisis between Russia and the West.

The regions spun out of Georgia's control in the early 1990s after a series of violent conflicts with separatists.