Russia recognizes independence of Georgia's rebel regions
Medvedev: "In the current crisis, it became necessary to make a decision."
Sochi, Russia -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev formally recognized the independence of Georgia's rebel regions Tuesday, defying Western criticism as its troops remained in the former Soviet state.
"In the current crisis, it became necessary to make a decision. ... I have signed decrees on the recognition by the Russian Federation of the independence of South Ossetia and of Abkhazia," Medvedev said in a nationally televised statement.
The United States slammed the resolution while the European Union reaffirmed support for Georgia's territorial integrity just minutes before Medvedev's announcement.
"It is not an easy choice but it is the only way to protect the lives of civilians," the Russian president said after meeting with Russia's security chiefs.
The Kremlin convened the Russian security council at the president's Black Sea residence in Sochi on Tuesday to review a plea by Russia's parliament for recognition of the two Georgian breakaway regions.
Vladimir Putin -- Russia's powerful prime minister and Medvedev's predecessor as president -- was also in attendance.
Medvedev stressed that Russia has long held back from recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia's pleas for independence but that Georgia's attack on the latter had forced its hand.
"On the night of Aug. 8, Tbilisi had a choice: (Georgian President Mikheil) Saakashvili opted for genocide," said Medvedev. "With this choice, Saakashvili wiped out all hope of a peaceful coexistence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia under one government."
Russia and Georgia fought a brief but bloody war over South Ossetia with Russia's army moving deep into Georgia last week after repelling an offensive by Georgian troops to re-take its separatist region.
Few other governments are likely to formally recognize the two regions that have held de facto independence since winning a war of succession from Tbilisi in the early 1990s.
With Russian troops still deep in Georgia, Russia's move to recognize the republics is sure to deepen a rift in ties with the West already at their worst since the Cold War.
The United States rebuked Russia's parliament over the resolution on Monday, saying it was "deeply concerned."
US President George W. Bush warned that Moscow's recognition of the provinces would violate its commitments and the United Nations resolutions governing the diplomatic effort to resolve the frozen conflicts.
Russian lawmakers Monday cited Kosovo's recent break from Serbia as a legal precedent for South Ossetia's moral right to self-determination.
Ahead of the announcement, Medvedev sought to reassure the Molodovan and Azeri presidents -- who have similar secession worries to Georgia -- over the respective breakaway regions of Nagorno Karabakh and Transnistria.