Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (photo) signed cooperation pacts establishing economic and military ties with breakaway Georgian regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgian officials said the move was a "de facto annexing" of the territories.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday signed agreements formalising military and economic ties with two rebel regions in Georgia despite anger from Tbilisi and its Western allies.
"We will give each other all necessary support, including military support," Medvedev said after a pomp-filled Kremlin signing ceremony, flanked by the separatist leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"We will not allow a new military adventure. No one should have any illusions about this," he said, referring to a Georgian attack on South Ossetia last month that prompted Russia to launch a massive retaliatory strike.
The agreements allow Russia to open military bases in the two rebel provinces and commit Russia to defend the regions from attack, as well as promising to unite energy, transport and telecommunications networks.
The pacts also say that Russian troops will help defend the borders separating Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the rest of Georgia jointly with separatist authorities for the sake of "peace and stability" in the region.
Only Russia and Nicaragua have recognised the two regions as independent.
Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh and South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity thanked Russia in short speeches after the signing. The three leaders then drank champagne to toast the newly signed pacts.
The agreements, which follow a symbolic exchange of diplomatic notes last week, are designed to set up the basic framework for relations between Russia and the two regions that it recognises as independent states.
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August when Russian troops poured into South Ossetia to repel an attack by Tbilisi's forces.
Russia routed the Georgian troops and shortly afterwards announced formal recognition of the two rebel provinces and plans to open embassies there.
Last week, senior Russian officials promised to locate military bases containing 3,800 troops in each of the two regions, even as the Kremlin agreed to withdraw its forces from the rest of Georgia.
Georgia has fiercely criticised the Russian deployment, saying it amounts to annexation of its sovereign territory, and the complaint has been echoed by Tbilisi's allies in the West who say Russia is redrawing the map of Georgia.
"The option of keeping Russian forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is not acceptable," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in an interview published Monday in London's Financial Times newspaper.
Medvedev has said a Russian military presence in both provinces is needed to prevent renewed "aggression" by the Georgian army.
The crisis has brought relations between Russia and the West to their lowest ebb since the Cold War.
Moscow has also been angered by Georgia's attempts to join the NATO military alliance, which has expressed support for Tbilisi but stopped short of providing direct military aid.
On Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry described a visit earlier this week to Georgia by a top-level NATO delegation as "anti-Russian" and said it confirmed Cold War reflexes were "still at work" within the Atlantic alliance.
De Hoop Scheffer visited Georgia with envoys of all 26 NATO member states to show support and to inaugurate a new Georgia-NATO cooperation commission. He said Tuesday that the path to NATO admission was "still wide open" for Georgia.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia have called on the international community to recognise their fledgling independence, but only former Soviet ally Nicaragua has so far heeded the call.
Date created : 2008-09-17