Lawmakers to Hold Emergency Talks

Lawmakers will interrupt their summer vacations Monday to convene for an emergency session at which formal proposals to the Kremlin to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are likely to be discussed.

The Federation Council and the State Duma will both convene to discuss the breakaway Georgian republics, though the Kremlin will likely hold off on recognizing the regions' independence as it gauges the West's response to such proposals, analysts said.

The Federation Council will meet Monday morning, while the Duma will convene Monday afternoon. The leaders of the Duma's political factions will hold a meeting Monday morning, said Dmitry Gudkov, spokesman for pro-Kremlin party A Just Russia's faction.

"All of us here in the Duma are looking for hints as to what the draft resolution on South Ossetia and Abkhazia will look like, but hardly anything will be known before Monday afternoon," Gudkov said.

Gudkov suggested that the secrecy was due to the Kremlin's wavering on whether to recognize the breakaway regions as independent states.

According to the Constitution, it is the president's decision to recognize a foreign country. The two chambers of parliament can only offer foreign policy recommendations to the president.

The South Ossetian parliament on Friday called on President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian lawmakers to recognize the region's independence, claiming that 17 years of de facto independence from Georgia proved its viability as a state.

The bloody conflict over the breakaway region shows that the region cannot co-exist with Georgia in a single state, the South Ossetian parliament said.

Abkhazia's parliament and its self-styled president, Sergei Bagapsh, sent a similar request to Moscow on Thursday.

They called on Russia to strike a military pact with Abkhazia after recognizing its independence, thus allowing Russian troops to remain there to fend off any Georgian incursions.

Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected spin doctor and a senior member United Russia's faction in Duma, said it was "highly possible" that the Duma and the Federation Council would support independence for the republics Monday.

The wording of their resolutions, however, will allow the Kremlin to put off a final decision indefinitely, said Markov and Nikolai Silayev, a Caucasus expert with the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

"A lot will depend upon the behavior of the West," Markov said.

Should the West acknowledge that the recent violence was the result of aggression ordered by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili — and act to prevent similar decisions in the future — the Kremlin is ready to postpone indefinitely recognizing the republics' independence, Markov said.

If Moscow perceived the international community as doing nothing to protect South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia will have to recognize the republics and provide their citizens — most of whom have Russian passports — with security guarantees, Markov said.

Russia is employing the same strategies used by the West to justify recognizing Kosovo's independence, and Moscow may unilaterally follow the script to the end with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, said Alexander Khramchikhin, an expert with the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.