Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, defying pressure from the West, announced on Tuesday that Moscow had decided to recognise two rebel regions of Georgia as independent states.
”I have signed decrees on the recognition by the Russian Federation of the independence of South Ossetia and the independence of Abkhazia,” Medvedev said in a televised statement.
The decision sets Russia on a collision course with the West, which has strongly urged Moscow not to recognise the two regions and to support Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Russian stocks fell on the decision, as traders worried that it would increase international tension. The benchmark RTS index, which had already dropped earlier in the session on weak oil prices, extended its losses and was down nearly 6%.
Georgia condemned the move. Its Deputy Foreign Minister, Giga Bokeria, described the Russian recognition as an ”unconcealed annexation” of Georgian territory.
France, which had brokered a ceasefire agreement to end the fighting between Russia and Georgia, said it regretted the Kremlin’s move.
”We consider this is a regrettable decision and I recall our attachment to the territorial integrity of Georgia,” a French Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
Georgia and Russia fought a brief war over the breakaway region of South Ossetia earlier this month after Georgia sent in troops to try to retake the province by force. Russia responded with a massive counter-attack by land, sea and air.
Russia’s envoy to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, compared the position to the eve of World War I, saying a new freeze in relations was inevitable.
”The current atmosphere reminds me of the situation in Europe in 1914 … when, because of one terrorist, leading world powers clashed,” Rogozin told the RBK Daily business newspaper.
”I hope [Georgian President] Mikheil Saakashvili will not go down in history as a new Gavrilo Princip,” Rogozin said, referring to the man who in August 1914 killed Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, triggering the world war. — Reuters