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Moscow denies South Ossetia is to join Russia

Latest update : 2008-09-12

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied claims by South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoity (photo) that the separatist Georgian region was to join the Russian Federation.

SOCHI - Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia plans to become part of the Russian Federation, its leader said on Thursday, but Moscow's top diplomat said he was not aware of any such request.

 

"Yes, we will be part of the Russian Federation," South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity told reporters in the Russian resort of Sochi on the Black Sea. "We will do it according to the norms of international law."

 

"Now we are an independent state and we look forward to uniting with North Ossetia and joining the Russia Federation," Kokoity said.

Kokoity was reiterating his longstanding position following Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another rebellious Georgian province, as independent states.

 

Asked about Kokoity's remarks at a news conference in Poland later on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters: "I don't know where you get this information from. I never heard that South Ossetia wants to join Russia."

 

"South Ossetia has understood it cannot guarantee its safety without declaring independence," he said after talks in Warsaw, adding that Russia had had to recognise that independence to help secure the "survival" of the South Ossetian people.

 

Russian troops crushed an attempt by Tbilisi to retake South Ossetia by force last month, drawing widespread international condemnation and prompting concern over the security of energy supplies through the region.

 

South Ossetia borders North Ossetia, a region inside the Russian Federation, and broke away from Georgia's rule after a separatist war in the 1990s. Russia and Nicaragua are the only states that have recognised its independence.

 

South Ossetia is a territory of around 1,500 square miles (4,000 square km) and has a population of roughly 70,000.

Date created : 2008-09-11

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