Russian parliament recognises South Ossetia, Abkhazia (Second lead)

August 25th, 2008 - 8:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Aug 25 (RIA Novosti) Russia’s parliament Monday called on President Dmitry Medvedev to recognise and establish formal ties with Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Members of the lower house or State Duma said the repeated requests by the separatist regions for their independence to be recognised “have legal grounds and are morally justifiable”.

Hundreds of civilians were killed in South Ossetia, the regional capital Tskhinvali was devastated, and thousands of locals were forced to flee when Georgia launched an attack Aug 8 to seize control of the region.

Russia retaliated with an operation to “force Georgia to accept peace”. Georgia’s ally the US and other Western powers accused Moscow of a disproportionate use of force, and NATO froze ties with Russia last week.

Lawmakers said the recognition of the republics would help in ensuring security and protect people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia “from threats from third countries”.

A similar resolution was unanimously passed earlier Monday by the Russian parliament’s upper house, the Federation Council, which said that by using force against South Ossetia, Georgia had lost the moral right to seek control of the breakaway provinces.

The military offensive “definitively deprived the Georgian leadership of the right to push for the South Ossetian and Abkhazian dependence on their adventurist polices, which have led to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the Federation Council said.

The State Duma also appealed to the UN and other organisations to back the de facto independent regions and exert pressure on Georgia to end the crisis.

“The State Duma is appealing to parliaments of the UN member states and international parliamentary organisations to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent and sovereign countries,” the resolution said.

Lawmakers also criticized Western media bias in favour of Georgia and accused the Council of Europe and the UN Security Council of failing to speak out to protect South Ossetians “who were dying under bombs and bullets”.

The leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which broke away from Georgia after bloody post-Soviet conflicts in the early 1990s, spoke in Russia’s upper house Monday and appealed for lawmakers to support their independence. Many people in the regions hold Russian citizenship.

The separatist leaders earlier requested Moscow to allow the regions to become part of Russia, however, Moscow did not formally grant the request. Georgia has accused Russia of supporting the separatist regimes and attempting to annex its territory.

Russia has now withdrawn most of its troops from Georgia, but peacekeeping checkpoints are still in place as Russia says they are needed to deter further bloodshed and protect South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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