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Moscow Moves To Incorporate Breakaway Georgian Region's Military

RFE/RL March 14, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to conclude an agreement to effectively incorporate the military of Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region into the Russian armed forces' command structure.

The order, issued by the Kremlin on March 14, comes a day after the Russian government published a draft agreement paving the way for separatists in South Ossetia to serve as contract soldiers in the Russian military.

The move was quickly denounced by Tbilisi, which said that "any agreement between the Russian Federation and de facto leadership [of South Ossetia] is illegitimate."

"Such steps are not aimed at protecting peace and are impeding peaceful process, which is necessary for the conflict resolution," Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze said in a statement.

Russia has de facto controlled South Ossetia, a mountainous region located in northeast Georgia, for years. Officially, however, Moscow treated South Ossetia as a separate state, not part of Russia.

The text of the draft agreement provides for the separatists to switch to new operating procedures for their armed forces which will be subject to approval by Moscow. The draft says the forces' structure and objectives will be determined in agreement with Russia.

It also states that South Ossetian military personnel can transfer to serve as Russian soldiers on a Russian military base in the region.

The Kremlin order signed by Putin instructs his defense and foreign ministries to work with the separatists to conclude and sign the agreement.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in a 1991-1992 war in which an estimated 2,000 people were killed.

In August 2008, Russia sent in troops, ostensibly for the protection of civilians in South Ossetia from attack by Georgian forces.

Georgia said the Russian military intervention was an invasion of its territory, and the United States and the European Union have backed Tbilisi politically in the standoff.

After the brief 2008 war, Russia recognized South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia, as independent countries.

Moscow maintains thousands of troops in both regions, in deployments that NATO and Western governments say violate the EU-brokered deal that ended the fighting.

With reporting by Reuters and Interfax

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/south-ossetia-russia- incorporates-military-georgia/28369475.html

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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