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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abkhazia Adopts Russian Phone Code

TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region, recognized as an independent state by Russia, has cut another tie with Georgia by adopting Russia's international dialing code.

Russia recognized pro-Western Georgia's rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which rely heavily on it for economic and military backing, as independent after crushing a Georgian assault on South Ossetia last year. Abkhazia began using Russia's +7 dialing code on Sunday.

"The old codes will work until January 1. Then they will be turned off and people will use the new codes of independent Abkhazia," Nadir Bitiev, a senior aide to Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh, told Reuters.

Russia said last month that it would grant Abkhazia use of its +7 prefix and would continue to lobby for a unique Abkhaz country code. The move drew a furious reaction from Georgia.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said on Monday that it had sent a protest note to Russia via the Swiss embassy and had informed the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Georgia cut diplomatic ties with Russia after the war.

"Russia does not regard Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, but as provinces of Russia," said Paata Davitaia, deputy speaker of the Georgian parliament.

ITU rules state that non-United Nations member states need the approval of two-thirds of ITU members to join the Union.

The two territories threw off Georgian rule in wars in the early 1990s. Russian forces took control of their de facto borders after last year's war with Georgia.

Only Nicaragua and Venezuela have followed Russia in recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia.