Russian PM Putin visits breakaway Abkhazia | world | Hindustan Times
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Russian PM Putin visits breakaway Abkhazia

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Abkhazia on Wednesday on his first visit to the breakaway Georgian region since Moscow recognised it as an independent state last year.

world Updated: Aug 12, 2009 21:14 IST

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Abkhazia on Wednesday on his first visit to the breakaway Georgian region since Moscow recognised it as an independent state last year.

Putin kicked off his visit by laying a wreath at a memorial to the victims of the 1992-1993 war between Abkhaz separatists and the Georgian government after the break-up of the Soviet Union, an AFP reporter said.

"This is his first visit" since Russia recognised Abkhazia and fellow breakaway Georgian region South Ossetia as independent following a five-day war with Tbilisi last August, a spokesman for Putin said.

The Russian strongman will meet the local leadership to discuss economic cooperation and other issues, he added.

Russia caused an outcry from the West when it recognised pro-Moscow Abkhazia as independent after the August war with Georgia. Only distant Nicaragua has so far followed the Kremlin's move in recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Putin's visit came just days after Russia marked the first anniversary of the Georgia war amid rising tensions between the two countries along the de-facto Georgian border.

In an interview with Abkhaz media before his visit, Putin said he could not rule out another conflict in the tense Caucasus region as long as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili remained in power.

"Given today's Georgian leadership it is impossible to exclude anything," he said.

But any attempt by Georgia to use force against the two rebel regions would be "far more difficult" following the war last year, Putin added.

Georgia's military was decimated in the conflict and Russian troops have since entrenched positions in the two breakaway regions.

"Russia will deploy forces in Abkhazia. We will build a modern border-guard system.... All these measures are additional serious security guarantees for Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Putin said.

"All this will cost about 15-16 billion rubles (463 million dollars/328 million euros)," he added.