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16 Apr, 2008 09:13

Moscow to protect citizens in Georgia’s breakaway regions

Russia is set to expand ties with Georgia’s breakaway republics by offering help to citizens living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, including Russians. Tbilisi has called the move a provocation and an attempt to annex the region.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Mikhail Kamynin, said the help would be of a practical nature.

“We're finalising a list of documents which the local authorities will be able to issue to people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Kamynin said.

Kamynin promised that the Foreign Ministry's offices in Russia's southern Krasnodar region will provide consular help to Russian citizens in those breakaway regions.

Kamynin also said that the Russian offices will help citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in civil, family and legal issues.

He went on to say that the decision was encouraged by the UN Security Council’s unanimous decision on Tuesday to extend the mandate of its observer mission in the region.

Kamynin insisted that the step was not meant to irritate Georgia or the UN in any way.

Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Shamba, says the move is a breakthrough.

“Our goal is to build closer relations with Russia. We see this decision by President Putin as a breakthrough. We also see it as a decisive step towards the recognition of Abkhazia's independence. The development of relations is a two-way process, and both sides must show interest and we have certainly shown interest. Russia’s support in social and economic issues is very much appreciated here,” he said.

The move has prompted Georgia to call an emergency security meeting. Georgia’s Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration, Georgy Baramidze, accused Russia of attempting to encroach on his country’s sovereignty and scupper its bid for closer ties with Europe.

“Any actions on the Russian side aimed at infringing the sovereignty and annexing the territory of Georgia will face an adequate response. Attempts by the Russian side to legally formalise relationships with separatist areas of Georgia are going to face reaction from the government, the state, and the people of Georgia. Russia should be aware of that and realise the consequences of any provocations,”  Baramidze said.