Russia backs independence of Georgian regions

Russian lawmakers on Monday asked the president to recognize the independence of Georgia's two rebel provinces, a move likely to anger the small Caucasus nation's Western allies. The vote by all the 130 members of the Kremlin-dominated Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, came after a brief war between Russia and Georgia following Georgia's assault on the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali Aug. 7. The vote was not legally binding and it was up to President Dmitry Medvedev to make the final call. Experts say the plea by the Russian legislature would give the Kremlin an extra bargaining chip in its dealings with the West. Currently, neither Russia nor any other member of the United Nations recognizes those claims. Both countries won de-facto independence in the 1990s after wars with the government in Tbilisi, and have survived ever since with the financial and political support of the Kremlin.