Putin plans to visit occupied Abkhazia

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Russia is the guarantor of the security and independence of Abkhazia and does not intend to abandon its functions, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a news conference after meeting with the president of Abkhazia. "We will not recognize any attempts to change the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as regions of Georgia".

Mr Putin arrived in Abkhazia's Black Sea resort of Pitsunda on Tuesday, coinciding with the ninth anniversary of the Russo-Georgian conflict of 2008. The United States fully supports Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and rejects Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

State's condemnation did not stop Putin from expressing his commitment to building a joint military contingent with Abkhazia's separatist administration's leader Raul Khadzhimba during his visit.

Georgia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has released a statement regarding Putin's visit to Georgian occupied territory, saying this step represents a continuation of Moscow deliberate policy against Georgia. "I am confident this will continue into the future", Putin said.

He described Russia's military base, which is shared with Abkhazian forces, as crucial to security in the region.

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The Abkhaz leader recalled that August 8 was a memorable date for Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Khajimba, like Putin, is a former officer in the Soviet-era KGB spy agency.

After laying flowers on the graves of Georgian soldiers who died in 2008, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said on Tuesday: "Today, while grieving about the losses we have had during this tragedy, we see the president of the Russian Federation visiting Georgian Abkhazia".

Putin's visit came after two Russian tourists in Abkhazia were killed and dozens injured by an explosion at a munitions depot earlier this month. After several years, Vanuatu and Tuvalu revoked their recognition and now declare Abkhazia and Tskhinvali are integral parts of Georgia.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation states have expressed concern over Moscow's upcoming drills in Belarus and Kaliningrad, Russia's westernmost outpost, but have not suggested the Kremlin has designs on Minsk.

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