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Russian Duma votes for rebel regions' independence

Latest update : 2008-08-26

Russia's parliament, the State Duma, has called on President Dmitry Medvedev to recognise Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. The US called it "unacceptable".

See FRANCE 24's exclusive interview with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The Russian parliament voted Monday to recognise two breakaway Georgian regions as independent nations, prompting a flurry of diplomatic warnings amid a deepening freeze in relations.
Russia also toughened its line with the West, with President Dmitry Medvedev saying Moscow was ready to break with NATO and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announcing that Russia will withdraw from some WTO trade accords.
With Russian troops still deep in Georgia, both houses of the Russian parliament passed motions urging Medvedev to recognise the independence of South Ossetia -- where the conflict began this month -- and Abkhazia.
The two regions are internationally recognised as part of Georgia, where Russian troops rolled in on August 8 to fight off a Georgian offensive to retake South Ossetia.
Addressing the Federation Council upper house, South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity said Russia had saved his region from "genocide".
He asserted there was more political and legal legitimacy to recognising South Ossetia's independence than there had been for Kosovo, the Serbian  province which broke free with EU and US backing.
Abkhaz leader, Sergei Bagapsh, said: "Neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia will ever again live in one state with Georgia."
The final decision on recognition rests with Medvedev, who has already signalled his support for independence.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russia was making "an attempt to change Europe's borders by force," in an interview with French newspaper Liberation.
The Russian parliament vote heightened international concern.
"I call on Russia's leadership to meet its commitments and not recognise these separatist regions," US president George W. Bush said in a statement.
"Georgia's territorial integrity and borders must command the same respect as every other nation's, including Russia's," he said. "The United States will continue to stand with the people of Georgia and their democracy and to support its sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The Group of Seven nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- also expressed concern.
"The G7 is united in support for Georgia's territorial integrity and alarmed by reports of Russian plans to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia," a US State Department official said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the vote was "worrying".
"That decision is not going to help things, it only adds to the tension in the region," a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
The European Union signalled growing impatience with Russia when French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a special European summit on the Georgia crisis for September 1.
Russia withdrew tanks, artillery and hundreds of troops from their most advanced positions in Georgia on Friday. But Russian troops still control access to the port city of Poti, south of Abkhazia, and have established other checkpoints around South Ossetia.
Russia claims a six-point peace plan brokered by Sarkozy gives it the right to leave "peacekeepers" deep inside Georgia in a buffer zone, but Western nations say Russian troops must pull back further.
A Russian general said Monday that Russian troops would also search cargo arriving at the port in Poti.
In a new show of US support to its ally Georgia and other Western-looking former Soviet states, the White House said Vice President Cheney will visit Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan next week.
Cheney will be the most senior US official to visit the region since the crisis erupted, plunging relations between Moscow and the West to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
A US destroyer, the USS McFaul, carrying relief supplies arrived at the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi on Sunday, and two other naval ships were en route to Georgia.
Russia has accused NATO countries of using humanitarian aid as "cover" for a build-up of naval forces in the Black Sea.
Medvedev said on Monday Russia was prepared for a full break in relations with NATO but urged the Western alliance to avert a rupture.
"We will take any decision including up to a complete break in relations" if NATO decides to suspend cooperation with Russia, Medvedev was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
Medvedev said Russia's relations with NATO had become "complicated" over the Georgia conflict. "There has been a dramatic worsening of our relations, but we are not to blame," he was quoted by Interfax as saying.
Adding to the diplomatic souring, Putin, his predecessor and mentor, said Russia had decided to withdraw from some agreements reached during negotiations to join the World Trade Organisation.
Western nations have warned Russia's aspirations to join the WTO were at risk over its actions in Georgia.

Date created : 2008-08-25