Pact Tightens Russian Ties With Abkhazia

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  1. Kshatriya87

    Kshatriya87 Senior Member Senior Member

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/world/europe/pact-tightens-russian-ties-with-abkhazia.html


    MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin signed a treaty on Monday to expand Russia’s authority over Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, effectively giving the Kremlin a dominant role in military and economic policy and making it easier for residents of Abkhazia to obtain Russian citizenship.

    The accord comes at a time of deep apprehension in the West over Russia’s expansionist aspirations because of its annexation of Crimea and its support of the violent separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine. The treaty was angrily denounced by Georgia as illegal and a step toward “de facto annexation.”

    Georgia, like Ukraine, has been moving toward closer political and economic ties with the European Union. Officials in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, said the new accord with Abkhazia was yet another attempt by Russia to thwart the westward ambitions of a former Soviet republic while tightening the Kremlin’s influence.

    “The signature of the so-called treaty constitutes a deliberate move by Russia in reaction to Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” the Georgian foreign minister, Tamar Beruchashvili, said in a statement.

    Ms. Beruchashvili said Georgia would appeal to the United Nations, NATO and other international organizations to denounce the accord. It was signed by Mr. Putin and the president of Abkhazia, Raul Khadzhimba, during a meeting in Sochi, the Russian resort city on the Black Sea, which is a short drive from the Russia-Abkhazia border.

    Drafts of the agreement had been circulating for weeks, and Abkhazia, an impoverished region of 240,000 people that is heavily dependent on Russia for security and economic aid, had virtually no choice but to sign it.

    Russian troops have been stationed in Abkhazia since it broke from Georgia in the early 1990s, but the agreement signed Monday calls for the formal development of a joint Russian-Abkhazian military force and gives Russia a role in Abkhazia’s foreign affairs, which are constrained because it is not recognized by most of the world.

    The accord calls for Russia to pay for modernizing Abkhazia’s military and for Abkhazia to integrate its trade laws with the Eurasian Economic Union, the trade bloc that Russia has formed with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia.

    “Of course,” Mr. Putin told reporters after his meeting with Mr. Khadzhimba, according to a transcript, “the ultimate goal of all of this is to improve people’s lives.”

    Mr. Khadzhimba, who was elected in August, said, “Partnership relations with Russia create the full scope of guarantees for the safety of our state and extensive opportunities for the social and economic development.” He added, “We are not a big country, but for many long years we have consistently looked to Russia, thus ensuring our common interests.”

    Russia’s move to tighten its grip on Abkhazia underscored the extent to which it has capitalized on regional territorial disputes, often driven by ethnic, national or religious divisions, to retain influence throughout the old Soviet system.

    Russia also has extensive influence in South Ossetia, another breakaway region of Georgia, as well as in Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova. The Kremlin’s recent moves in Ukraine have been watched with alarm not only in the West but in the Baltics, Belarus, Kazakhstan and throughout Central Asia.
     
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