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Russia Strengthens Grip On Abkhazia With New Pact


Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba says the pact is based on "equal relations between two sovereign states," but critics within Abkhazia say its leaders are ceding too much control to Moscow.

Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba says the pact is based on "equal relations between two sovereign states," but critics within Abkhazia say its leaders are ceding too much control to Moscow.

Russia and Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region have signed a treaty that Tbilisi has condemned as a step toward Russian annexation of the Black Sea province.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Abkhazia's de facto president, Raul Khajimba, signed the "Allied Relations and Strategic Partnership" treaty on November 24 in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The treaty says that an armed attack on Abkhazia will be considered an armed attack on Russia, and vice-versa.

It calls for the creation of a joint Russian-Abkhaz military force within a year, and for Russian funding for the modernization of Abkhazia's military.

It also obliges Russia to press for more global recognition of Abkhazia's independence claim.

Khajimba has said the pact was based on "equal relations between two sovereign states," but critics within Abkhazia say its leaders are ceding too much control to Moscow.

Putin also said Moscow would double its financial assistance to Abkhazia.

Khajimba said the extra money would allow his region to move beyond its current focus of ensuring security and implementing social projects to raising the economic potential of Abkhazia.

Abkhazia has been enjoying de facto independence from Georgia since August 2008, when Russia recognized Abkhazia and another Georgian breakaway territory, South Ossetia, as independent states.

Only a few countries have followed Russia's lead in recognizing the independence of the two breakaway Georgian regions.

Besides providing financial support for Abkhazia, Russia has also stationed some 4,000 troops there.

In Georgia, Nino Burjanadze, the leader of the opposition Democratic Movement and former parliamentary speaker, blamed the current Georgian government for failing to take action to prevent the November 24 signing of the Russian-Abkhaz agreement.

Burjanadze said Georgia's government "has no policy" for Abkhazia.

The head of the European Union monitoring mission in Georgia, Toivo Klaar, said the "so-called agreement" between Russia and Abkhazia would not change the EU's position "on the sanctity of Georgia's territorial integrity."

Based on reporting by Interfax, TASS, and civil.ge
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