Russia Signs Treaties with South Ossetia, Abkhazia

MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed friendship treaties with Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Wednesday and promised them the backing of Russia’s armed forces.

The treaties formalize military, diplomatic and economic co-operation between Moscow and the regions, which Russia recognized as independent states after its brief war with Georgia last month. The pacts also permit Russia and South Ossetia, as well as Russia and Abkhazia, to set up military bases on each other’s territories.

Medvedev signed the treaties with South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity and Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh.

In a speech after the signing ceremony in the Kremlin, Medvedev said Russia committed itself to defending Abkhazia and South Ossetia from any Georgian aggression. Russia also agreed to unify its transportation, energy, and communications infrastructure with the two republics.

"We will give each other all necessary support, including military support," Medvedev said after a Kremlin signing ceremony, attended by the 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.

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.

Russia’says it was morally obliged to send troops and tanks into South Ossetia last month to prevent what it called a Georgian genocide against the region’s residents. Moscow’s action drew widespread international condemnation.

Most residents of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia have had Russian citizenship for several years. South Ossetia and Abkhazia have so far only been recognized by Russia and Nicaragua. Belarus has pledged to follow suit in the near future, and Venezuela has voiced support for Russia’s recognition of the two republics.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia plan to apply for membership of the CIS, the Russia-Belarus Union State, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Abkhazian leader said on Wednesday.

"We will send membership applications to these structures, and we hope they will be accepted," Sergei Bagapsh said at a joint news conference in Moscow with South Ossetia’s president.

Kokoity said that he fully supported the statement of the Abkhazian president. "This is a logical step in the development of our states. We will strengthen these relations with time.”

Georgia served notice of its withdrawal from the CIS, an alliance of former Soviet republics, on August 18, following a 5-day war with Russia over S. Ossetia. Its withdrawal becomes effective on August 17, 2009.

The CSTO is a security grouping comprising Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The Russia-Belarus Union State is a supranational entity consisting of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. It was formed in 1996 "with the intention of providing greater political, economic, and social integration."

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