Four ex-Soviet regions seek closer ties with Russia

Representatives of four ex-Soviet breakaway regions reiterated their intention Wednesday to seek international recognition and closer ties with Russia, and a Russian lawmaker said it was high time the provinces were recognized as sovereign states.

Officials and academics from Georgia's breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh disputed by Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the Trans-Dniester region of Moldova met at a conference in Moscow and pledged to pursue independence efforts.

Igor Akhba, Abkhazia's envoy to Russia, said his region was determined to become independent from Georgia and seek closer ties with Russia, the AP reports.

"The people of Abkhazia have voted for an independent republic of Abkhazia, ... we are building an independent, lawful state in accordance with international law," Akhba said.

Taimuraz Kokoyev, dean of the South-Ossetian University, said his province also had similar aims and hoped one day to become part of Russia.

"The people of South Ossetia have decided their destiny long ago ... the Ossetian people will keep seeking to join Russia," Kokoyev said.

Representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh and Trans-Dniester also said they relied on Russia's help in their efforts to win international recognition.

All the regions broke away from central governments in separatist wars in the early 1990s, cultivating close ties with Russia.

Konstantin Zatulin, a lawmaker from the Kremlin-backed United Russia party, called the sovereignty of these entities a reality that should be accepted. "Fighting with reality is as complicated as peeing against the wind," Zatulin said.

Modest Kolerov, a member of the Russian presidential administration charged with regional relations, said all the ex-Soviet republics needed to ensure freedom of speech, religion and citizenship to their citizens.

"We are acting to provide these fundamental rights to our fellow countrymen in the former Soviet republics," the Interfax news agency quoted Kolerov as saying.

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