Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of the Kremlin’s powerful Security Council, has warned that Moscow could annex Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Reuters news agency reported.
Medvedev, who has cast himself as one of Moscow’s most hawkish political voices since Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, accused the West in a newspaper article published on Wednesday of creating tension over Georgia by discussing its possible membership in the NATO military alliance.
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“The idea of joining Russia is still popular in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Medvedev, a former Russian president, wrote in an article published by the Argumenty I Fakty newspaper.
“It could quite possibly be implemented if there are good reasons for that,” he said in the article.
While Russian relations with Georgia have improved since Tbilisi and Moscow fought a brief but bloody war in 2008 over the breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, Medvedev said that Moscow would not hesitate to act if concerns regarding possible NATO admission come close to being a reality.
“We will not wait if our concerns become closer to reality,” Medvedev said in the article, referring to possible annexation.
Georgian officials have repeatedly said they are committed to joining the United States-led NATO military alliance, viewing it as a way to preserve the territorial integrity of their country.
The military alliance states on its official website that “Georgia is one of NATO’s closest partners”.
“It aspires to join the Alliance. Over time, a broad range of practical cooperation has developed between NATO and Georgia, which supports Georgia’s reform efforts and its goal of Euro-Atlantic integration,” the NATO website states.
Georgia lost control over the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Moscow recognised the independence of the two regions in 2008 following Georgia’s attempt to regain control of South Ossetia by force, which led to a Russian counterattack that saw Moscow’s forces briefly occupy Georgian territory.
Medvedev’s article was published to mark the 15th anniversary of Russia recognising the independence of the regions following the 2008 conflict.
Kyiv’s aspiration to join NATO and the threat this posed to Russian security has been one of several arguments used by officials in Moscow to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.