Russia recognizes independence of Georgia’s rebel regions (Second Lead)August 26th, 2008 - 11:12 pm ICT by IANS
Moscow, Aug 26 (DPA) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev formally recognized Georgia’s rebel regions as independent Tuesday, defying Western criticism as its troops remained in the former Soviet state.”In the current crisis it became necessary to make a decision. … I have signed decrees on the recognition by the Russian Federation of the independence of South Ossetia and the independence of Abkhazia,” Medvedev said in a nationally televised statement Tuesday.
The United States slammed the resolution while the European Union reaffirmed support for Georgia’s territorial integrity just minutes before Medvedev’s announcement.
“Russia calls on other states to follow its example. This is not an easy choice to make, but it represents the only possibility to save human lives,” the president said after meeting with Russia’s security chiefs.
The Kremlin convened the security council at the president’s Black Sea residence in Sochi Tuesday to review a plea by Russia’s parliament for recognition of the two Georgian breakaway regions.
Vladimir Putin - Russia’s powerful premier and Medvedev’s predecessor as president - was also in attendance.
Medvedev stressed that Russia had long held back from recognizing the two provinces’ pleas for independence, but that Georgia’s “night- time execution-style bombardment” of South Ossetia had forced its hand.
“On the night of August 8, Tbilisi made its choice: (Georgian President Mikheil) Saakashvili opted for genocide. … With this he single-handedly wiped out all hope of a peaceful coexistence of South Ossetians, Abkhazian and Georgians in one state,” Medvedev said in the statement.
Russia and Georgia fought a brief but bloody war over South Ossetia with Russia’s army moving deep into Georgia last week after repelling an offensive by Georgian troops to re-take its separatist region.
Russian television showed people shooting into the air in celebration, streaming Russian flags and smiling into their cell phone cameras as news of Medvedev’s speech reached the separatist capitals of Sukhumi and Tskhinvali, gutted by the recent bombing.
Telephone lines to South Ossetia were flooded, and one resident Murat Tedeyev, 26, in Tskhinvali could barely be heard for the sound of gunshots fired in the air.
“We knew Russia would support us after everything. … Our city is ruined but we are so happy. They will help us rebuild,” he told DPA via text message.
“This victory is our right. It is the century-long dream of the people of Abkhazia come into reality,” the leader of the province Sergei Bagapsh said.
“I pay homage to our mothers who have brought up worthy sons who have given their lives for the sake of their native land,” the Abkhaz leader said.
But few other governments are likely to recognize the two regions, that have held de facto independence since winning a war of secession from Tbilisi in the early 1990s.
With Russian troops still deep in Georgia, Russia’s move to recognize the republics cut deeper gaping relations with the West, already at their most strained since the Cold War.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had remained the least critical of Russian action during the conflict, slammed the Kremlin’s decision Tuesday as “absolutely unacceptable”.
The US, a close ally of Georgia’s, warned on the eve of Medvedev’s decision that Moscow’s recognition of the provinces would violate its commitments and the UN-led efforts to resolve the frozen conflicts.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday firmly told journalists during her visit to Ramallah that Abkhazia and South Ossetia “are part of the international borders of Georgia and they will remain so”.
Russian lawmakers Monday cited Kosovo’s recent break from Serbia as a legal precedent for the two regions “moral right” to self-determination.
Medvedev’s decree also drew on the parallel.
He said the decision came only after the exhaustion of diplomatic solutions: “We repeatedly called for a return to the negotiating table and did not deviate from this position even after Kosovo’s unilateral proclamation of independence.”
But Georgian National Security Council Secretary Alexander Lomaia told news agency Interfax the decision “contradicts all existing norms of international law. … It will lead to the unprecedented isolation of Russia the by the rest of the world.”