Russian president visits breakaway region of Abkhazia

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Abkhazian leader Sergei Bagapsh (l) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (r)
Image caption,
The Russian president pledged more financial support

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has made an unscheduled visit to Abkhazia, his first to the breakaway Georgian region since the brief war between Russia and Georgia two years ago.

He held talks with Abkhazia's leader and promised to develop economic, political and security relations.

In the wake of the 2008 conflict, Moscow recognised Abkhazia and nearby South Ossetia as independent states.

Georgia still considers both breakaway regions part of its territory.

During his visit, Mr Medvedev pledged more financial support to the two regions.

Close ties

In televised remarks, Mr Medvedev said Russia's decision to recognise the independence claims of the two regions was the right one.

"It was painful, it was not simple, and time has proven that it was the right decision," he said.

Russia has used the anniversary of the conflict to emphasise the strength of its ties with the two breakaway states.

Last year Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Abkhazia for the first anniversary of the conflict and announced Moscow would pay for part of the region's defence infrastructure.

In August 2008, fighting in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia escalated into war between Georgia and Russia.

Russian forces quickly drove Georgian troops out of first South Ossetia then Abkhazia before a peace deal was signed.

Most Abkhazians will welcome the visit from the Russian president, says the BBC's Tom Esslemont in Tbilisi, but the Georgian government of Mikheil Saakashvili says the regions are under Russian occupation.

The regions are far from being truly independent, our correspondent says, as they are heavily reliant on Moscow.