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Russia Ratifies Treaty With Abkhazia; Georgia Says Illegal

The Russian State Duma has ratified an agreement with the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia that Tbilisi says is null and void.

The lower house of parliament voted by a 441-1 margin on January 23 to approve the controversial treaty, which was signed by President Vladimir Putin and Abkhazia's de facto leader in the Russian resort of Sochi in November.

The agreement puts Russian and Abkhaz forces under a joint command and provides for the joint patrolling of borders and territorial boundaries.

Giorgi Volsky, the parliamentary faction leader of the ruling Georgian Dream alliance, said the agreement has "no legal force" and "complicates" Russia's position internationally.

He said ratification is a step by Moscow toward the "annexation" of Georgian territory.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said Georgian politicians should "get used to the new political reality" in the region.

Several thousand Russian troops have been stationed in Abkhazia since Russia recognized the region's independence after a brief war with Georgia in 2008.

Based on reporting by Interfax, AP, and