CIS Leaders Say Refusing To Recognize Not Enough

A senior State Duma deputy has issued the strongest statement yet against the recognition of separatist states within the CIS in the wake of Kosovo's declaration of independence Sunday, but the statement didn't go far enough for some.

Recognizing the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia would provoke a serious crisis in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Konstantin Kosachyov, the chairman of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, said Tuesday.

"There are a lot of countries that have their own Abkhazias and South Ossetias, and half of them are on former Soviet territory ... and they will take serious offense," Kosachyov told Russian News Service radio. He added that already troubled relations with Georgia and the West would also suffer.

But Konstantin Gabashvili, the Chairman of the Georgian parliament's International Affairs Committee, said the comments offered scant assurance.

"The question is not about recognizing independence, but about respect for our territorial integrity," Gabashvili said in a telephone interview from Tbilisi.

He argued that even if Moscow refrained from formal recognition, in practice it was already acting as if those regions were independent.

"This de facto recognition is as bad as any de jure recognition," he said.

Gabashvili added that statements from Moscow suggested Russian influence on the disputed territories would only grow. Both the Foreign Ministry and Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov have called for a reshaping of ties with both Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Leaders of the two Georgian breakaway republics lobbied for recognition in Moscow over the weekend, arguing that Kosovo's vote for independence set an important precedent.

Transdnestr, a breakaway region from Moldova, has also said it is stepping up its quest for independence.

The United States and major European powers recognized the former Serbian province Monday.