Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has made a surprise visit to Abkhazia: his first trip to the breakaway Georgian region since Moscow’s short war with Tbilisi two years ago.
Medvedev held talks with Abkhazia’s rebel leader Sergei Bagapsh.
In the aftermath of the war Moscow recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another rebel region as independent states.
President Medvedev said: “The decision that Russia took after the military phase of the conflict was a painful and difficult one, but with time we understand that it was the right decision because otherwise the situation now would be completely different.”
In 2008 Russian forces crossed into Georgian territory after fighting had broken out over South Ossetia and later over Abkhazia itself causing the worst post Cold War crisis between Russia and the West.
Pro-Russian vigils have been held in South Ossetia which Tbilisi and most of the international community still regards as an integral part of Georgia.
In Tbilisi memorial services have also been held. The government there is accusing Russia of “playing a game it has already lost”.
“The territories are occupied and visits by President Medvedev will do nothing to change that or add anything positive to the region,” said a spokesman.
The lack of international recognition for Abkhazia’s independence has done nothing to aid its flagging economy.