Putin Meets S. Ossetia Leader, Vows More Aid for Breakaway Region
By Tea Mariamidze and Khatia Kardava
Thursday, November 16
(NOVO OGARYOVO, Russia) – On Tuesday speaking at his private residence outside Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow will continue to provide robust financial and military support to Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia for the coming years.
Putin made the statement while meeting de facto South Ossetia’s self-proclaimed President Anatoly Bibilov.
“We discussed the implementation of an investment program for 2015-2017. Russia has earmarked 7.6 billion rubles ($128 million) for its implementation…A new investment program for 2018-2019 has been prepared, which will be endorsed in the near future," Russian state news agency TASS quoted Putin as saying.
The agency also reported that Putin wants to boost trade and economic ties between Moscow and the Russian-backed rebel government in South Ossetia, saying Russia remains de facto South Ossetia’s main trading partner.
The secessionist government’s media wing PEC later reported that the Kremlin agreed to cooperate more closely with Tskhinvali to combat security threats in the South Caucasus.
“South Ossetia is Russia’s close partner and ally,” Putin said. “We agreed to coordinate closely in counteracting the challenges and threats to security in Transcaucasia, and also to continue our close cooperation to fight against terrorism and organized crime,” he added, while using the tsarist and Soviet terminology for the south region of the Caucasus mountains.
At a joint press-conference, Putin noted that mutual agreements between the two entities will contribute to the strengthening of relations between Russia and South Ossetia and will help with the development of the rebel republic.
“We have already signed about 100 agreements and several more are being prepared. They will contribute to the development and integration processes and economic relations between the two states," said Bibilov.
Putin and Bibilov previously met in May to discuss bilateral relations. The latter is a vociferous supporter of Putin and an active advocate for Georgia’s breakaway region’s integration into the Russian Federation as part of a “reunification of the Ossetian people.”
Neighboring North Ossetia is already a federal subject of Russia. The terms North Ossetia and South Ossetia (Tskhinvali Region) were created during the Soviet times, which basically created an autonomy within Georgia’s historical territory and served as a ground for conflict in 1990s.
The Committee on Foreign Affairs of Georgian Parliament has assessed self-proclaimed President Bibilov’s meeting with Putin as an expression of disrespect towards international norms and standards. Dimitri Tskitishvili, deputy chairman of the Committee, says that Russia continues the occupation process.
"Naturally, it is not new but it is unfortunate that Russia does not give us any sign of constructiveness. On the other hand, we have a consolidated support from the international community and I am sure that this meeting will be followed by strict statements that always follow such visits," Tskitishvili said.
Georgian Opposition parties also commented that this is not a new move from Russia. Giorgi Tughushi, member of a parliamentary faction European Georgia, stressed that Russia is an occupant and the fact has been underlined once more by this action.
Russia recognized de facto South Ossetia’s independence in 2008 and later moved to occupy the region with the deployment of thousands of troops. The Kremlin has supported and militarily occupied South Ossetia and Georgia’s other breakaway region Abkhazia since the early 1990s.