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Russian PM: Moscow Has No 'Imperial Ambitions'

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has strongly defended the Russian military incursion into Georgia, but says Moscow has no intention of annexing any territory of former Soviet republics.

Mr. Putin, speaking Thursday in southern Russia, said Moscow has no "imperial ambitions" for Georgia, despite what he said were Western accusations to the contrary.

Separately Thursday, Russian news reports say President Dmitri Medvedev again accused Georgia of military aggression last month against the Georgian breakaway territory of South Ossetia. 

Mr. Medvedev said the Georgian move against South Ossetia August 7 triggered Russia's military incursion and has made the modernization of the Russian military a top priority.

Earlier Thursday, the pro-Russian separatist leader in South Ossetia said the Georgian region will not seek to become part of Russia, despite earlier reports to the contrary.

Russian news agencies quoted Eduard Kokoity earlier as saying South Ossetia is to join the North Ossetian region of Russia.  He later told journalists he was misquoted. 

Russia has defied a host of Western governments by recognizing South Ossetia and a second breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states.  Moscow moved earlier this week to establish diplomatic ties with both territories.

Abkhazian leader Sergei Bagapsh said his region hopes to join the Russian-Belarus Union State.

Russian forces pushed into Georgia last month after the Georgian military tried to retake control of South Ossetia.  Russia said it had to protect its citizens in the pro-Russian region.

 

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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