Defying the United States and Europe, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced Tuesday he has signed a decree recognizing the independence of the breakaway Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Few other nations are likely to follow Russia's lead but the move is sure to further escalate tensions between Moscow and the West. "This is not an easy choice but this is the only chance to save people's lives," Medvedev said in a televised address a day after Russia's Kremlin-controlled parliament voted unanimously to support the diplomatic recognition. Medvedev's declaration comes as Russian forces remain in Georgia after a war, staking out positions beyond the de-facto borders of the separatist regions. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have effectively ruled themselves following wars with Georgia in the 1990s.