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Russia Defends Recognition of South Ossetia; Abkhazia

Russia's U.N. envoy has defended his government's decision to recognize two breakaway Georgian provinces, saying Tbilisi's attack on South Ossetia earlier this month canceled existing U.N. resolutions that assure Georgia's territorial integrity and created a "new reality". From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Reading a statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his government has recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the face of an "aggressive, chauvinistic policy pursued by Tbilisi."

He said Russia showed great patience in waiting this long to recognize the two breakaway regions and its decision to do so was unanimous in the Russian parliament.

"We waited for such a long time," Churkin said. "They have been urging us to recognize them for years now, so there was a remarkable patience on display from the Russian Federation."

Churkin said Russia has no intention of annexing the two provinces, where many of the residents hold Russian nationality.

In a separate news conference, Georgia's U.N. Ambassador Irakli Alasania rejected the Russian move, saying it would further inflame an already dire situation.

"This step has no international, legal consequence," he said. "It has no impact on the internationally established borders of Georgia, and will not change in any way the international community's stand on the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Georgia."

But Russia's ambassador disputed that, saying Georgia's August 8 attack on South Ossetia negated existing U.N. resolutions that guarantee Georgia's territorial integrity.

"Their use of force against South Ossetia clearly dashed all those previous resolutions and created a completely new reality," said Churkin.

Western powers do not agree with Russia on that point, and many diplomats pointed out Tuesday that all previous Security Council resolutions reaffirming Georgia's borders and sovereignty remain in effect and cannot be reversed through military action.

Earlier this month, Russia, Georgia and the breakaway provinces signed a peace plan comprised of six points, which include the opening of international talks on security arrangements for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ambassador Churkin says Moscow still subscribes to these points, despite its decision to recognize the provinces' independence before such talks can take place.