Putin Says Russia Will Support Georgia’s Breakaway Regions

Moscow (Combined Sources)–Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia will provide all necessary support and assistance to Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Georgia is seeking to regain control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which proclaimed independence after the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Tbilisi accuses Moscow of encouraging separatism and interfering in its internal affairs.
"The Russian president stressed that Russia is not unsympathetic to the aspirations and problems of the two republics, where many Russian nationals live," Russia’s foreign ministry in a statement quoted the president as saying.
Earlier, the presidents of the two breakaway republics expressed in a statement to Putin their concerns over the "aggressive approach of the Georgian authorities handling the situation in the conflict zones, building up of weapons and troops close to the borders of the republics."
The Russian president said Georgia’s attempts to resolve the situation by applying pressure on Abkhazia and South Ossetia are senseless.
"Any attempts to apply political, economic or military pressure on Abkhazia and South Ossetia are futile and counterproductive," the ministry said citing Putin.
Sergei Bagapsh, the president of Abkhazia, said in an interview with RIA Novosti that Putin’s statement would "guarantee security for our republics."
Two weeks ago the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, proposed that the president and the government consider the issue of whether to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The self-proclaimed republics have stepped up their drive for independence after Kosovo’s declaration of independence Feb 17. Abkhazia and South Ossetia, along with Moldova’s Transdnestr, have since asked Russia’s parliament, the UN and other organizations to recognize their independence.
Peacekeeping in the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zones are currently carried out by CIS (Common Wealth of Independent States) forces.
The CIS was founded in 1991 after the break up of the Soviet Union by 11 of its former republics: Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmen’stan, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.
Putin Friday called the further expansion of NATO toward Russia’s frontiers a “direct threat,” one day after the alliance took a step toward embracing two former Soviet republics, Ukraine and Georgia.
“The appearance of a powerful military bloc on our borders will be taken by Russia as a direct threat to the security of our country,” Putin told reporters after meeting the 26 leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Bucharest Friday.
Pressed by President George W. Bush, NATO vowed at the summit to take in Ukraine and Georgia some day, while leaving the timetable open and arguing that Russia would benefit from having stable, western-backed democracies as neighbors.
Plans for further expansion are leading to a new strategic confrontation between Russia and the West–one that Putin is determined to win after Russia failed to prevent former Soviet satellites from joining NATO after the end of the Cold War.
Putin challenged NATO’s argument that the spread of western institutions embeds democracy and respect for human rights. Russia’s in Latvia, a NATO member since 2004, continue to be denied citizenship and are barred from certain jobs, he said.
“The entry of that country into NATO has not changed a thing for those hundreds of thousands of people,” Putin said. “NATO is not a democratizer,” he said, calling it “overblown” to make that claim.

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