Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reasserted Moscow's strong hold on Georgia's breakaway territories, visiting Abkhazia on the second anniversary of the Russia-Georgia war and pledging all-round assistance to strengthen the region's independence from Georgia.
“We will develop good-neighbourly relations with Abkhazia in the political, economic and security spheres,” Mr. Medvedev said on Sunday during his first visit to Abkhazia since Russia recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after foiling Georgia's August 8, 2008 armed attempt to win back control of the separatist regions. Mr. Medvedev said Russia's decision to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was “painful” but proved to be the “right decision over time” that averted “a protracted bloody conflict”.
The Russian leader's trip to Abkhazia was a high-profile demonstration of Moscow's defiance of Western demands for undoing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. During her visit to Georgia last month U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Russia of “invasion” and “occupation” of Georgian territories two years ago and demanded Russian withdrawal from the region.
Mr. Medvedev made it clear that Russia had come to stay. Visiting a newly built Russian military base in Abkhazia he said that Russian military presence helped “prevent certain extremist forces… from sowing enmity and hatred and committing bloodshed”.
In a statement on the anniversary of the 2008 war, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who two years ago ordered his army to attack South Ossetia, vowed to continue the fight against “Russian aggression”.
“We will carry on our struggle to the end and will free Georgia,” said Mr. Saakashvili.