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Russia backs Georgia’s rebel state

world Updated: Mar 07, 2008 23:37 IST
Fred Weir
Fred Weir
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In the first official Russian policy change since Kosovo’s disputed declaration of sovereignty last month, Moscow has upgraded its relations with the rebel statelet of Abkhazia, which is seeking independence from Georgia.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said on Thursday Moscow was lifting trade, financial and travel restrictions that have been in place since Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in a bitter civil war 16 years ago. “The cancellation of sanctions against Abkhazia complies with the generally-established international principle of step-by-step relaxation,” he said.

He denied that Moscow’s changing attitude toward Akhazia was connected to last month’s independence declaration of Kosovo, an Albanian-populated Serbian province that was seized by NATO in a 1999 war. Abkhazia and another secessionist Georgian region, South Ossetia, appealed this week to Moscow to grant them full recognition.