NATO Criticizes Putin Visit to Breakaway Georgian Region
NATO is sharply criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia on Tuesday — the ninth anniversary of the brief war over another renegade Georgian territory.
NATO spokesman Dylan White calls Putin’s visit “detrimental to international efforts to find a peaceful negotiated settlement.”
White said “NATO is united in full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally-recognized borders.”
Putin met with Abkhazia’s leader Raul Khadzhimba, reaffirming Moscow’s guarantee to protect what Putin calls Abkhazia’s “security, self-sufficiency and independence.”
Georgia’s foreign ministry condemned what it says is Putin’s cynicism, as well as Russian aggression and provocation against Georgia.
Russia recognized Abkhazia as an independent state shortly after Russian forces invaded Georgia over another breakaway region, South Ossetia, on Aug. 8, 2008.
Russia says the invasion was necessary to protect pro-Russian civilians. But critics say the Kremlin was sending a strong message to Georgia not to lean too far to the West.
Only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries. Both survive mainly because of Russian financial and military backing.
Some Georgians accuse Russia of all but annexing Georgian territory through the two breakaway regions.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited the Georgian capital of Tbilisi last week to reaffirm U.S. support and criticize Russian military presence on Georgian territory.