Putin Calls for Open S. Ossetia Border

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for an open border with Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia on Thursday, Interfax reported.

"Today, it will be sufficient if we assist in South Ossetia's economic reconstruction and actually remove the border between Russia and that republic," Interfax quoted Putin as saying.

Russia recognized both South Ossetia and the second Georgian separatist region of Abkhazia as independent countries following its brief August conflict with Tbilisi.

The South Ossetian leader, Eduard Kokoity, fuelled speculation that the region may eventually become part of Russia following comments he made to visiting Western academics earlier this month, though he quickly revoked them.

Putin said the focus should be on making it easy for people in the region to travel freely, without the formalities of a state border, Interfax quoted him as saying.

NATO has demanded that Russia should retract its recognition of the breakaway regions. (MT, AP)