Envoys From Rebel Regions Welcomed

APMedvedev toasting Medoyev, left, Bertelman, second left, Pringle, center, and Akhba, extreme right, on Friday.
Russia sealed its recognition of two breakaway Georgian regions on Friday when President Dmitry Medvedev greeted their first ambassadors to Moscow alongside other new envoys.

Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after fighting a five-day war with Georgia last August.

At Friday's Kremlin event, South Ossetia's Dmitry Medoyev and Abkhazia's Igor Akhba were treated by Russia as equals with the new ambassadors from 12 nations -- including Britain's Anne Pringle and Sweden's Ambassador Tomas Bertelman -- that do not recognize them as countries.

Medvedev, accepting the diplomats' credentials, said Russia would support both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and other countries should now do the same. "I am convinced that recognition by the international community will help ensure lasting peace and stability in the Caucasus," he said.

Nicaragua is so far the only country to follow Russia in recognizing the breakaway regions.

Medvedev said Russia had ties dating back centuries to Abkhazia and would continue to support South Ossetia against what he called Georgian aggression. "We will not abandon our neighbor in the difficult times of post-conflict conditions and we will together reconstruct the republic's social and economic infrastructure and strengthen its security," Medvedev said.

Separately, a Georgian police officer was shot dead Friday near the de facto border with South Ossetia, the Georgian Interior Ministry said, blaming sniper fire from territory "occupied" by Russian forces. South Ossetia denied involvement.

Georgian police said the officer was the 11th to be killed in the South Ossetian and Abkhaz border areas since the August war.