Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a pact with a Moscow-backed breakaway region of Georgia, despite condemnation by Tbilisi and the West.
Putin and the de facto leader of South Ossetia, Leonid Tibilov, signed the "alliance and integration treaty" in the Kremlin on March 18.
Part of the treaty gives Russia responsibility for ensuring the defense and security of South Ossetia, including guarding its borders.
Security and mliitary forces currently tasked with defending the region are to be incorporated into Russia's armed forces or Russia security bodies.
Shortly after the signing, Georgia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the pact amounted to the "actual annexation of the occupied Tskhinvali region" by Russia. Tskhinvali is the regional capital.
Russia recognized the region as an independent state after fighting a five-day war against Georgia in 2008, though only a handful of countries have followed Moscow's lead in doing so.
EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said on March 17 that the agreement "clearly violates Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington would not recognize the treaty.
With reporting by Interfax and TASS