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Russia's Putin pushes for recognition of Abkhazia, S.Ossetia


SUKHUMI, August 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that international organizations must recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if they want to work in the former Georgian republics.

Speaking at a news conference during a brief visit to the former Georgian republic's capital, Putin said that Moscow saw Sukhumi as a reliable partner and vowed that if necessary Russia would come to Abkhazia's aid militarily.

He added that after everything Abkhazia had overcome, it would succeed in rebuilding its economy.

"Now that the Abkhazian people have survived the war and the economic blockade, with Russia rendering systematic political, economic and if necessary military assistance the Abkhazians will cope with the task of economic revival," Putin said.

Putin said Russia was not against foreign observers, including from the UN or OSCE, being present in the region, but emphasized that international organizations should recognize the independence of the republics before sending observers to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"Appropriate agreements need to be signed with Abkhazia that recognize its sovereignty," Putin said.

Putin's one-day visit is the first high-level Russian delegation to the republic, which Russia recognized as an independent state last August after a five-day war with Georgia over breakaway South Ossetia, which Moscow also recognized as independent.

Meeting with Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh, Putin reiterated that despite major cuts in the federal budget triggered by the ongoing economic crisis, the level of financial assistance to Abkhazia would not change.

Under cooperation agreements signed earlier this year, Moscow pledged 2.36 billion rubles ($68 million) to Abkhazia and 2.8 billion rubles ($81 million) to South Ossetia to help balance their budgets and promote socioeconomic development.

Prior to the visit, Putin also said Russia would allocate 15-16 billion rubles (over $465 million) in 2010 to strengthen Abkhazian borders, frontier troops and bases.

Russia has maintained peacekeepers in the regions since the bloody post-Soviet conflicts in the early 1990s, when Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia. It deployed more troops there after last year's war with Georgia, which attacked South Ossetia to regain control of it.

Nicaragua has been the only other country to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The West condemned Russia's "excessive" use of force against the Caucasus state and recognition of the territories, while Moscow accused Western powers of supporting Georgian aggression.


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