Duma Discusses Deeper Links With Rebel Regions

State Duma deputies Thursday discussed deepening links with rebel regions in former Soviet satellites, a step that may stoke Western fears that Moscow will soon recognize them as independent.

Pro-Kremlin lawmakers have submitted recommendations that include opening Russian missions in Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and in the Moldovan region of Transdnestr.

Kremlin-loyal deputies, who dominate the Duma, said Kosovo's independence from Serbia had created a legal precedent that forced Russia to change its stance.

"Our counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean have opened a Pandora's box [by recognizing Kosovo]," said Alexei Ostrovsky, chairman of the Duma's CIS Affairs Committee.

Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnestr have been running their own affairs since separatist wars in the 1990s. They do not have international recognition and the United States and European Union oppose independence for them.

The hearing was attended by Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and senior figures from the three breakaway regions.

The hearing is part of a consultation process. The next stage will be to form proposals and, if approved in committee, they would be drafted into legislation and put before the full parliament for a vote.

The recommendations drafted by Ostrovsky's committee include examining the possibility of opening Russian missions in the three regions and boosting humanitarian and economic assistance for Russian passport holders in the breakaway regions.

The recommendations also include "examining the possibility of changing the format" of Russia's relations with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnestr. The document's authors say this could include granting recognition.