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Europe

West Criticizes Russian Recognition of Breakaway Regions

Western governments condemned Russia's recognition of the independence of Georgian regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moscow's decision ahs ratcheted up tensions across the Caucasus region, EU leaders said.

Two seperatists from South Ossetia ride in a carry and hold a rifle and a South Ossetian flag

While South Ossetians celebrated Medvedev's move, Western leaders lashed out at the Kremlin

Criticism has come in from across Europe and Asia with German Chancellor Angela Merkel leading a long list of world leaders disappointed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's decree recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on Tuesday, Aug. 26.

Merkel at a press conference in Tallinn

Merkel said Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected

On a visit to the Estonian capital of Tallinn, Merkel said Medvedev's decision was "absolutely not acceptable." She added that the decree contradicts the principle of territorial integrity, a principle based on the international law of nations and for this reason it is unacceptable.

The chancellor was joined by the United Nations, the European Union, NATO and the United States.

Wider implications

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokeswoman, Michele Montas, said Ban believed the move "may have wider implications for security and stability in the Caucasus."

"The secretary general regrets that ongoing efforts to find a common solution within the security council may be complicated," she said.

The French presidency of the EU "firmly condemned" the Russian move as "contrary to the principles of Georgia's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity." The EU remained committed to a "political solution to the conflict," it said.

Medvedev in front of a Russian flag

Medvedev said his decision was in accordance with international law

The Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, all former republics of the Soviet Union that have since joined NATO and the EU, also slammed Medvedev's announcement.

Poland, a communist ally of the Soviet Union until the collapse of communism and now a member of both NATO and the EU, also condemned the decision.

The Polish Foreign Ministry urged Russia to adhere to an agreement worked out by Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to end hostilities in Georgia earlier this month.

Inflames a tense situation

NATO rejected the move as "in direct violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions regarding Georgia's territorial integrity, resolutions that Russia itself has endorsed," Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a statement. Russia simultaneously cut a range of military and diplomatic contacts with the Western military alliance.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the move "regrettable" while Britain's Foreign Secretary said it "further inflames an already tense situation in the region."

Russian military vehicles leave a checkpoint

Medvedev decree won't add stability to the Caucasus region, the British prime minister said

Finish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, current chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said Tuesday that Russia "violates fundamental OSCE principles" by recognizing the two Georgian separatist regions.

A special meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council has been called for Wednesday, a spokesperson of the Vienna-based organization said.

Minsk's support fervent, Kiev's tepid

But members of parliament in Belarus, a neighbor and ally of Russia, supported Moscow's decision.

"I think it was an absolutely correct decision," said Sergei Kostian, a member of the parliament international affairs committee. "All responsible people should support Russia, so as to put an end to the unilateral influence in the world of the US and the EU."

In Ukraine, another former Soviet Union republic, political leaders were divided.

Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the head of the opposition Regions party and a Moscow ally, said, "Ukraine should respect the will of the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

He compared the status of the two regions to that of Kosovo and its separation from Serbia. Ukraine should recognize the independence of both regions, Yanukovych said.

But Arseny Yatseniok, a close ally of Ukrainian Viktor Yushchenko, criticized the Kremlin, saying it was up to the United Nations to rule on the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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