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Russia Establishes Diplomatic Ties with Georgian Breakaway Territories


Russia says it is establishing formal diplomatic ties with the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow has exchanged notes on the issue with both breakaway governments. He also told reporters Tuesday that Russia will maintain a military presence in both territories "for a long time."

Lavrov said combat troops, as opposed to peacekeepers, are needed to prevent Georgia from attempting to regain control of the two breakaway regions. Russia seized the territories in a military offensive last month, despite strong protests from the United States and the European Union.

Monday, Moscow agreed that all Russian troops would be pulled out of the Russian-declared security zones outside the two breakaway regions by October 15.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency, brokered the agreement, signed by the Russian and Georgian presidents.

Mr. Sarkozy also brokered last month's Georgia-Russia cease-fire.

Meanwhile, Georgia's interior ministry Tuesday said Russian troops withdrew from the Georgian village of Ganmukhuri in the Zugdidi district near the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

The French president and his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, agreed Monday that Russian military checkpoints around the Black Sea port of Poti would be gone by next week. They also said international talks on security in South Ossetia will begin October 15 in Geneva.

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 South Ossetia.