Russia cements military presence in Caucasus

The compound of the Russian military base in Tskhinval, South Ossetia (RIA Novosti / STF)
Russia's lower house, the Sate Duma, is set to ratify agreements with South Ossetia and Abkhazia on Russian military bases in the Caucasian republics during its autumn session.

The State Duma Speaker, Boris Gryzlov, said on Thursday that the parliament has already ratified a wide range of agreements with the two newly independent states.

On August 8 – which marked the third anniversary since the beginning of the war in the South Ossetia – President Dmitry Medvedev submitted agreements on the unified Russian military bases to the lower house. The legislators intend to consider the documents at the upcoming parliamentary session.

This way, the deputies will be able to take part in “the process of building up civilized interstate relations between Russia and the two independent republics,” Gryzlov said, reports Interfax.

“I have repeatedly said that peace and security in the region is a priority for us,” the official noted. He added that in many ways, it was thanks to Russia’s efforts that both peace and security have been provided.

Gryzlov recalled that back on August 25, 2008, shortly after the Five-Day War, Russian MPs appealed to Medvedev and called for the recognition of the South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence. He stressed that the unanimity of all the parliamentary factions on the issue became an example of “the consolidation of political forces,” which is very important, especially in such “key strategic moments”.

The agreements that are yet to be ratified by the legislators will lay down the ground rules with regards to the operation of the Russian military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The documents “describe the procedures for the use and operation of the facilities of the military bases and other assets, as well as the conditions for using sections of land,” Interfax, citing the Kremlin document, reported earlier. “They define the status of the personnel of the military bases, their families, civilian personnel, and other matters related to the functioning of the military bases.”

The agreement on establishing a permanent Russian military base in South Ossetia was signed in April last year. It will be effective for 49 years and can automatically be extended at 15-year intervals.

“With the signing of this agreement, Russia assumes full responsibility for the protection of South Ossetia," the Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said at the time.

In February 2010, a similar deal was sealed between Russia and Abkhazia.