The Kremlin is preparing for the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, officials in Tbilisi said after the Russia’s lower house of parliament passed statements calling for the recognition of the two breakaway regions on December 6.
Although the Russian State Duma's statements are not legally binding for the Russian executive authorities, it is clear that the unanimous approval of the documents indicates a widespread stance regarding Abkhazia and South Ossetia among the Russian political establishment, senior Georgian lawmakers said on December 6.
Two separate statements of Russia’s State Duma say that the international community should take the independence aspirations of the South Ossetian and Abkhaz people into consideration.
The statement on Abkhazia says that Russia should build its ties with Abkhazia based on a request by the breakaway region’s Parliament calling for recognition of Abkhazia’s independence and establishment of “associated relations” with Russia.
The statement accuses the Georgian authorities of stirring tensions and says that Tbilisi’s aggressive policy towards Abkhazia threatens the “lives of many thousands of citizens of the Russian Federation living on the territory of Abkhazia.”
Another statement regarding South Ossetia says that the November 12 independence referendum in the region has manifested the “evident aspiration” of its population towards independence and it “should be fully taken into consideration by the international community in order to ensure human rights, peace and stability.”
“The State Duma believes that the Russian Federation should build its policy based on the expression of free will by the people of South Ossetia, which was expressed during the recent referendum held in full compliance with the international legal norms and procedures, as well as based on the laws of the Russian Federation,” statement reads.
Influential Georgian lawmaker Givi Targamadze, who chairs the Parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security, said that the decision of the Russian Duma was “a surprise,” as Tbilisi expected this kind of move by Russia only after Kosovo’s status is defined. Russian officials have stated in the past that Kosovo, which many believe will be granted independence, should be used as a precedent for other seperatist conflicts.
“It is obvious that the Duma’s decision was sponsored and instructed by the Kremlin and the Russian government is preparing the ground for the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” MP Targamadze said in an interview with Tbilisi-based Mze TV.
“I can say directly that the recognition of these regions by the Russian executive authorities will be equal to a declaration of war against Georgia,” he added.
MP Targamadze said that this kind of scenario will have “disastrous consequences for Russia.”
Meanwhile in Abkhazia, thousands rallied in the main square of the capital Sokhumi on December 6 in what was called “a national gathering” to show the Abkhaz society’s unity in its aspirations for independence. The gathering was timed to coincide with the Russian State Duma’s consideration of statements on Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh told the gathering that Abkhazia and Georgia will never be able to coexist in a united state.
“I can say with full confidence that the Abkhaz society itself is very concerned about Russia’s moves, because they understand what can happen if Russia’s officially recognizes breakaway regions… And I want to repeat once again that recognition will mean war,” MP Targamadze warned.
Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said earlier on December 6 that approval of the statements on Abkhazia and South Ossetia by the State Duma would be “a big mistake.”
Georgian Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze also warned the Russian Duma earlier on December 6 not to endorse controversial statements on breakaway regions.
“I hope that our Russian counterparts will not take such a step, which is absolutely unacceptable in terms of international law and standards, to say nothing about the commitments undertaken by Russia in bilateral and multilateral agreements with Georgia. However, if the Russian State Duma still accepts this decision, the world will see once again with whom Georgia has to deal with and what real interests are behind that pressure which Russia exerts on Georgia,” Burjanadze told reporters.
After the Russian lawmakers’ decision, senior Georgian parliamentarians gathered later on December 6 at a meeting with Burjanadze to discuss the Georgian legislative body’s response.
Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili also joined the lawmakers.
The group decided to pass a statement calling on the international community to express its concern regarding the Russian Duma’s decision.
“I am not inclined to dramatize the situation… It [the Duma’s statement] is not a legally binding document,” Bezhuashvili told reporters after the meeting with the senior parliamentarians.
“We will pass an appeal to the international community calling for an adequate response from them,” MP Nika Gvaramia, Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Legal Affairs, said.
“The only purpose of this document was to provoke Georgia,” MP Davit Bakradze, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Euro-Atlantic Integration Issues, said.