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Russia denies Abkhazia 'separation' talks with Georgia

RIA Novosti

27/06/2008 18:06 KHANTY-MANSIISK, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow has denied discussing with Tbilisi the division of Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia into Russian and Georgian spheres of influence, the Russian foreign minister said on Friday.

"It's a lie. It is totally untrue," Sergei Lavrov said, speaking after a Russia-EU summit in the West Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiisk.

A Russian business daily, Kommersant, citing sources in the Georgian leadership and the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on Friday that Georgia had proposed to Moscow an array of measures to resolve the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, including the division of the breakaway republic into zones of influences - a large Russian one and a smaller Georgian one. Under the alleged plan, Georgia would regain formal sovereignty over all of Abkhazia.

The Russian foreign minister also said that Georgia's statements regarding Russia's alleged intentions to annex Abkhazia resulted from a misguided interpretation of current events.

"The issue is not big Russia trying to hurt small Georgia, but rather that big Georgia cannot settle disputes with small Abkhazia and South Ossetia," the minister said.

South Ossetia is another breakaway Georgian republic.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have been strained in recent months, since Russia stepped up support for Abkhazia and sent more peacekeeping troops into the region. Tbilisi has accused the Kremlin of trying to annex the territory and shooting down an unmanned reconnaissance plane.

Moscow has repeatedly dismissed Tbilisi's claims, and has condemned Georgia's policy toward the rebel region, saying it could lead to new bloodshed.

Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the subsequent Georgian-Abkhazian hostilities.

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