Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is in Abkhazia, on his first visit to that breakaway republic of Georgia since Russia recognized the area as an independent country almost a year ago.

The Russian leader laid a wreath at a monument to those killed in fighting between Abkhazian separatists and Georgian forces in the early 1990s.  He then went into meetings with Abkhazia's leaders.

Earlier, Mr. Putin told Abkhazian journalists Russia will spend about $460 million to build up the region's defenses, including border defenses and the construction of a Russian military base in the area. He also said Russia will provide almost $77 million in additional aid next year to support Abhkazia's budget.

He also again raised the prospects of renewed conflict in the region, saying that with the Georgian leadership, nothing can be ruled out.

Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and another breakaway region of Georgia, South Ossetia, following last year's Russian-Georgian conflict.

Russia says it sent forces into Georgia in early August 2008 in response to Georgian military efforts to regain control of South Ossetia by force.  Georgia says it was responding to a Russian invasion.



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