Russia has signed a deal to protect Georgia’s rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia for nearly 50 years.The accord with the two breakaway republics allows the Kremlin to establish bases with up to 1,700 soldiers in each. Only Nicaragua and Venezuela have followed Moscow in recognising the regions’ independence. Tbilisi denounced Tuesday’s agreement describing it as a ‘barbaric occupation’. Georgia’s navy is blockading ships en route to Abkhazia and Russia also threatened to seize any vessel it finds in Abkhaz waters, further ratcheting up tensions in the Black Sea. Both rebel regions threw off Tbilisi’s rule after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, but are wholly dependant on Moscow to survive. In August last year, the Kremlin crushed a Georgian attempt to regain South Ossetia in a short but bitter war.