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Russia Lifts Trade Restrictions on Abkhazia


Russia has lifted trade and financial sanctions on the Georgian separatist region of Abkhazia, which is seeking recognition as an independent country.

The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement Thursday saying Moscow no longer considers itself bound by the terms of a 1996 sanctions pact approved by the Commonwealth of Independent States a regional grouping of former Soviet republics.

Thursday's statement follows intense Russian diplomatic efforts to prevent Western recognition of Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Moscow and others have warned that an independent Kosovo could fuel separatist movements elsewhere in Europe and beyond.

However, the foreign ministry insisted Thursday the lifting of the Abkhazia ban had nothing to do with Western support for Kosovo's independence.

A second Georgian breakaway region, South Ossetia, appealed on Wednesday for similar recognition, using Kosovo as a precedent.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, sparking armed conflicts. No country has recognized their independence, and Geogia still claims sovereignty over both regions.

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