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    Georgian Regions Mark Russian Recognition of Independence

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    South Ossetia and Abkhazia are marking the first anniversary of Russia's decision to recognize them as independent states after a five-day war between Russia and Georgia.  But while Russian President Dmitri Medvedev defends recognizing the two breakaway Georgian regions in defiance of practically the rest of the international community, some observers say the decision could come back to haunt him. 

    After Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia one year ago, the only country to follow its lead was Nicaragua.  None of the other former Soviet states has done so.

    But during a visit to the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said his country's decision was correct and "irreversible."

    Mr. Medvedev said that given what he called "Georgia's armed aggression" against South Ossetia, the decision to recognize the two breakaway Georgian regions as independent was, in his words, painful but absolutely unequivocal.

    The Russian president said the move was "legitimate" from the point of view of international law, "just" and "absolutely necessary."

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held talks in Moscow with South Ossetia's leader, Eduard Kokoity.

    While the  anniversary was an official holiday in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, it was a somber occasion in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

    Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told VOA that huge problems remain from last year's war, including the large number of people displaced by the fighting.

    He said the war and Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states have made Russia an international pariah.

    Utiashvili said Russia's move was backed only by Nicaragua and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

    Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, says that unlike Abkhazia, which is rich in natural resources, South Ossetia is not capable of existing independently.

    He says South Ossetia is completely reliant on outside financial help, but has so far failed to create the infrastructure necessary to use Russian aid money to rebuild the industries and homes destroyed in last year's war.

    Petrov also says Russia's decision to recognize the two breakaway Georgian republics as independent states could have a boomerang effect.

    He says that if South Ossetia can be recognized as an independent state, other, more economically powerful republics in Russia's restive North Caucasus region may decide they can ask for the same thing.   

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