Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has declared that Russia will recognise the independence of Georgia’s breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He made the announcement in Sochi following a unanimous vote for the republics’ independence by both houses of the Russian Parliament in Moscow on Monday.
Medvedev`s exclusive interview with RT
With the Russian parliament backing the independence of the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, President Dmitry Medvedev gives his views on the issue in an exclusive interview with RT.
The leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Sergey Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity, have reiterated that “they will never agree to remain within Georgia” at an emergency session of the Federation Council.
Meanwhile, Georgia has repeatedly said it will never surrender its territories.
Hard road to independence
South Ossetia, which borders Russia in the south Caucasus, and Abkhazia on the Black Sea, had previously attempted to break away from Georgia following referendums which were overwhelmingly in favour of independence. The results were ignored by Tbilisi, which claimed the ethnic Georgians forced to flee the regions were not consulted. The recent conflict in South Ossetia has added further urgency to the demands for self-determination.
The roots of the current discord can be traced back to the divide and conquer policies of Joseph Stalin - himself half Georgian, half Ossetian. Before the 1917 revolution, the ethnic groups of the Caucasus all lived as separate subjects of the Russian empire. However, with the Bolsheviks came the redrawing of the map, with both South Ossetia and Abkhazia becoming parts of Georgia.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the then Georgian leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia advocated a nationalist "Georgia for the Georgians" policy, re-opening old wounds. Two military conflicts followed, leaving thousands dead and forcing many more to flee the conflict zones.
The ceasefire in the early 1990s brought de-facto independence to both regions with the shaky truce maintained by peacekeeping forces of mainly Russian troops.
Since becoming president in 2004, Mikhail Saakashvili has pledged to bring his country closer to the West, which has also motivated his drive to end the territorial disputes.
Ossetians and Georgians have lived side by side for centuries. The two groups share Soviet history and the Orthodox Christian religion and intermarriage is common. But the ties that once bound their cultures have been severely damaged in the trauma of the recent fighting. Kosovo's self-declared independence in February, too, has boosted these regions' ambitions.
Most Abkhazians and South Ossetians carry Russian passports and the only valid currency is the Russian rouble. In addition, both self-declared republics have presidents, flags, national anthems, armies and Moscow’s support.
- Medvedev backs independence for Abkhazia and South - Russia Today