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Medvedev makes surprise visit to breakaway Georgian region

People light candles during a commemoration ceremony, marking the second anniversary of Georgia's war with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, in Tskhinvali August 8, 2010.
People light candles during a commemoration ceremony, marking the second anniversary of Georgia's war with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, in Tskhinvali August 8, 2010. Reuters

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has made a surprise visit to the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, two years after the war between Tbilisi and Moscow.

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The Russian president’s visit to Abkhazia confirms popular belief that surprise visits are not always welcome, at least not for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. The pro-Western president of Russia’s small neighbour would have probably preferred to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the war between Moscow and Tbilisi with something other than a visit from Medvedev.

But alas, he was not consulted. On Saturday morning, Medvedev met rebel leader Sergei Bagapsh and toured the sea embankment of Abkhazia’s main city Sukhumi. In August 2008, Russian forces poured into Georgia after fighting broke out over South Ossetia before spreading to Abkhazia.

Medvedev says he does not regret recognising Abkhazia as an independent state after the war with Tbilisi.

"It was not a simple decision," Medvedev said. "But time has shown that it was the right decision. The existence of the peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was under threat."

"If that decision had not been taken, the situation now would be completely different," he added.

Georgia reacted with exasperation at the visit and suggested Medvedev was trying to distract attention from the forest fires that have been raging in central Russia. "I think it would be better if the Russian president were focused on domestic problems. I think maybe he is trying to distract attention," Deputy Prime Minister and Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili told AFP.

"They are still playing a game that they have lost. These territories are now recognised as occupied territories and these kinds of trips will not change that or add anything positive to the region."
 

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