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Russia Recognizes Independence of Breakaway Georgian Republics


Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has signed decrees granting formal recognition to the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But VOA Moscow correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports analysts say the move could promote separatism in Russia itself.

President Medvedev announced Russian recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in a five-minute nationally-televised address, in which he accused Georgia of an attempted blitzkrieg aimed at eliminating the people of the breakaway republics.

The Kremlin leader says he has signed decrees regarding the Russian Federation's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He says Russia calls on other states to follow his country's example. Mr. Medvedev says the decision is not easy, but it offers the only possibility to save people's lives.

He says recognition is based on the desire of the Ossetian and Abkhaz peoples for independence, as well as United Nations Charter, a 1970 declaration on international law, and the Helsinki Agreement.

Independent Russian political analyst Alexander Konovalov told VOA the decision weakens the Helsinki Agreement, a document that has recognized the inviolability of Europe's post-War boundaries since it was signed in 1975. Konovalov says this will hurt Russia itself, because Moscow will no longer be able to oppose U.S. and Western recognition of Kosovo, a province that broke lose of Serbia, a Russian ally.

The analyst says even more importantly for Russia, recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia plants a time bomb in the Caucasus, because if Moscow acknowledges the right of Ossetians and Abkhaz to secede from Georgia, why can't the Ingush and Chechens leave Russia? He says he does not know how or when the time bomb will go off, but he is certain that it will.

Chechens fought two very bloody wars of independence with Russia in recent years, which ended only after one of the warring clans turned their guns against other Chechens to side with the Russians who put them in charge of the restive region. Chechens have been fighting Russian rule since the 19th century and the area is still considered a hot bed of independence.

The chairman of the European Integration Forum in Tbilisi, Soso Tsiskarishvili, told VOA that Mr. Medvedev's decision is likely to raise ethnic awareness and stoke separatism throughout Russia. He says Mr. Medvedev's decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia demonstrates that he is a short-sighted leader, who was selected, not elected, and cannot be trusted to honor Russia's solemn international commitments. Tsiskarishvili is also critical of Georgian leadership, saying it runs the risk of losing domestic political support.

Tsiskarishvili says he is not convinced there is sufficient confidence among the people of Georgia in the ability of current authorities to control the situation in the long run, or that they will be able to remain real players on Georgia's political scene.

Tsiskarishvili says that if any Georgian leader still harbors ideas of continued fighting over South Ossetia, it will mean the loss of virtually any possibility of maintaining the country's territorial integrity.

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