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    Putin says no plans to make S.Ossetia part of Russia

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    Russia is not considering the possibility of letting South Ossetia, recently recognized as an independent state by Moscow, become a part of the country, the prime minister said Thursday.

    SOCHI, September 11 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is not considering the possibility of letting South Ossetia, recently recognized as an independent state by Moscow, become a part of the country, the prime minister said Thursday.

    Earlier in the day, South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity said his republic planned to merge with the neighboring Russian province of North Ossetia, and become part of Russia, but later withdrew his statement.

    "We are not considering the issue of its joining the Russian Federation," Vladimir Putin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

    He also said Russia's recognition of South Ossetia's independence, which has been strongly criticized by Western powers, was a necessary step.

    Russia recognized the disputed Georgian province along with Abkhazia on August 26, two weeks after it had concluded its operation "to force Georgia to peace." The operation came in response to an attack by Georgian forces on South Ossetia on August 8.

    So far, the only other country to recognize the republics has been Nicaragua, although Belarus looks likely follow suit later this month.

    Putin accused the United States of encouraging Georgia to carry out its act of aggression against South Ossetia.

    "Our American partners constantly trained the Georgian armed forces, provided substantial funds, and sent a vast number of instructors who mobilized the army there. Instead of searching for solutions to interethnic disputes, in my view they simply pushed one of the parties to the conflict - the Georgian side - to aggressive actions," Putin said.

    "Of course we had to respond - how could we not? Or were we supposed to wipe our bloodied noses, as they say in such cases, and bow our heads?"

    One of the foreign participants at the Valdai club asked why Russia chose to take military action against Georgia.

    "Your question does not surprise me. What surprises me is something else - what a powerful propaganda machine the West has. It is quite amazing," Putin said.

    He reiterated that Russia's response to the Georgian aggression was proportional considering the circumstances, with heavy artillery being used by Georgia against civilians, mostly Russian citizens.

    "Should we have swung our penknives at them? What is proportional use of force when tanks and heavy artillery are used against us? Should we have fired with a slingshot? They had to expect to be hit hard in the face," Putin said.

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