In a move many see as retaliation for the February recognition of independence for Kosovo, both houses of Russia’s parliament voted unanimously to recognize the independence of the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Though not legally binding, the vote urges Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to officially recognize them and establish full diplomatic relations.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry condemned the vote as a continuation of “Russian aggression” and a violation of Georgia’s sovereignty. Yesterday, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili vowed to rebuild his shattered military and reclaim the enclaves. Earlier this month, the Bush Administration reiterated its commitment to Georgia’s “territorial integrity.”
Both enclaves have enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy since 1992, and tensions with the Georgian government have led to intermittent violence. This all came to a head earlier this month, when the Georgian government launched an offensive against South Ossetia, shelling its capital city of Tskhinvali. The Russian military, along with thousands of Abkhaz and Ossetian volunteers, swept into Tskhinvali, and advanced into parts of Georgia. Though a cease-fire has been declared, Russian troops remain in and around certain strategic Georgian cities.
In February, the breakaway province of Kosovo, long part of Serbia, declared independence with United States backing. At the time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the move would affect Russia’s policy toward Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s long-standing independence claims.
compiled by Jason Ditz
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