Russian parliament approves independence of S Ossetia, Abkhazia

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Moscow, Aug 25 (UNI) The two houses of Russian parliament, the Federation Council (upper house) and the State Duma (lower house), today unanimously voted a resolution calling President Dmitry Medvedev to recognise the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

All the 130 Senators present in the upper house, supported the resolution. All the 447 deputies participating in the special session of lower house also voted in favour of the independence, in the wake of Russia-Georgia conflict.

The votes were not legally binding and it was up to President Medvedev to make the final call on diplomatic recognition.

Experts said the approval by Russian parliament gave the Kremlin an extra bargaining chip in its dealings with the West, as it tries to reassert influence in the former Soviet republics and resist moves by Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO.

Senators said that after Georgia's act of military aggression against South Ossetia, which also reignited the conflict with Abkhazia, Georgia has lost the moral right to seek control of the breakaway provinces.

The offensive ''definitively deprived the Georgian leadership of the right to push for the South Ossetian and Abkhazian peoples' dependence on their adventurist polices, which have led to a humanitarian catastrophe,'' the Parliament said in its address to the President.

''In view of repeated requests from South Ossetia and Abkhazia to recognise their independence, including those made on August 22 and 24, the Federation Council proposes that Russia support their independence,'' the statement said.

Mr Medvedev has repeatedly said the people of the two regions should be given a say in their eventual status.

Speaking in the Federation Council before the vote today, South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity said, ''I am asking Russia to recognise South Ossetia as an independent and sovereign state.'' Abkhazia's president Sergei Bagapsh said the two self-proclaimed republics can never be under Georgian control.

''It is hard to say what decision Russia's political leaders will make on our republics, but I can say for certain that Abkhazia and South Ossetia will never be part of Georgia,'' he told the Federation Council.

''We are requesting that you overcome this barrier, which has for a long time been a difficult thing to do, and recognise our republics as independent states,'' he said.

Since the fighting over South Ossetia ended nearly two weeks ago with the ejection of Georgian forces from both provinces, the Russian military has established controversial buffer zones along their administrative borders with Georgia proper.

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