MOSCOW, August 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russia had no plan to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia when last August's conflict with Georgia over the latter began, the Russian foreign minister said.
Moscow recognized the independence of the two former Georgian republics after Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war last August. Most residents of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia have held Russian citizenship for several years.
"We were thinking first of all about saving people. But then it became clear that to save people it was not enough to stop the aggression and leave them within Georgia, since both republics are clearly under threat with such a president [Mikheil Saakashvili]," Sergei Lavrov said in an interview broadcast on the Vesti news channel on Wednesday.
Tensions have risen ahead of the August 8 anniversary of the start of the war, with Georgia and South Ossetia accusing each other of carrying out cross-border attacks.
South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity announced the closure of the border with Georgia from midnight, citing the threat of swine flu. Reports say 12 Georgians have been infected with the A/H1N1 virus.
Georgian forces had attacked South Ossetia in an attempt to bring it back under central control. Since Russia's recognition of the two republics, Moscow and Tbilisi have had no diplomatic ties.