Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, has ratified treaties with the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The widely-expected endorsements clear the way for Moscow to keep thousands of troops in the pro-Russian territories.
Duma lawmakers voted unanimously Wednesday for the so-called friendship and mutual assistance treaties, which formalize economic, diplomatic and military ties.
Moscow recognized the two regions as independent countries in August, shortly after Russian forces swept into Georgia to counter a Georgian military effort to reclaim South Ossetia by force. The invasion drew strong condemnations from the West, where some governments threatened to respond with sanctions on Moscow.
Moscow says it will station 7,600 troops in the territories.
Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow opposes the deployment of European Union monitors in the region.
He said Russian forces will assume responsibility for security in the territories.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.