Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez says his country has recognized the independence of the Georgian separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

His announcement on Thursday at the start of a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev could be a significant boost for Moscow, which recognized the regions as independent after last year’s war with Georgia.

Only Nicaragua followed suit, a tacit slap by the international community. Russia now has thousands of troops in each of the two regions.

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