MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia cemented control over neighbouring Georgia’s rebel Abkhazia region Monday with a “strategic partnership” deal that the Georgian government said amounts to annexation.
President Vladimir Putin signed the “alliance and strategic partner-ship” agreement which formalises Russian dominance of the tiny separatist region’s foreign policy, armed forces and economy, as well as placing Russian guards on the border with the rest of Georgia.
The Georgian government con-demned the move as illegal.
The signature “is a step towards a de facto annexation of the Abkhazia region by the Russian Federation” and a “violation of the principles of Georgia’s territorial integrity and international law”, Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili told journalists. More than 30,000 oppo-sition supporters protested in Tbilisi this month against the planned deal, which comes amid a diplomatic firestorm over Russia’s involvement in a separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea last March.
Abkhaz opposition parties have also voiced fears that the agreement undermines their tiny would-be country’s bid for real independence. Some provisions of the agreement “may have undesirable consequen-ces for the sovereignty” of Abkhazia, the Council of Abkhazia’s Public Chamber said on Friday.
The deal that Putin signed after talks with Abkhaz President Raul Khajimba in the Black Sea resort of Sochi says Moscow and Sukhumi will unite armed forces and jointly guard Abkhazia’s border with Georgia.
It also creates a shared law en-forcement system and a common economic and customs space.
The agreement, which says it is prompted by “new global and regional challenges and threats,” specifies that any attack against Abkhazia will be viewed as aggres-sion against Russia, which will pro-vide military aid.