Russia to Keep Troops in Georgia Breakaway Regions

Russia said Tuesday that it will station troops in two Georgian breakaway provinces for the foreseeable future, reaffirming its plans less than 24 hours after agreeing to pull forces from Georgian areas around Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that a Russian military presence was necessary to prevent Georgian attempts to regain control of the separatist regions.

"Russian troops will remain on the territory of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on request of their leaders in parliament," he said at a briefing. "They will remain there for a long time. Their presence there will be needed at least for the foreseeable future to prevent any relapses of aggressive actions."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other officials previously have said that Moscow will maintain a military presence in the region, but Lavrov's statement Tuesday was the most specific affirmation of Moscow's intention.

Lavrov said Russia plans to sign formal agreements with both regions on the troops' presence in the next few days. He didn't say how many troops would be based in the two regions.

Russia has recognized both provinces as independent states and was also expected to sign a deal to establish diplomatic relations with them later Tuesday.

Lavrov spoke less than a day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev announced a revised version of a European Union-brokered peace deal that envisaged the deployment of at least 200 EU monitors in the area surrounding the two breakaway regions by next month. The deal obliges Russia to pull out of those regions in 10 days following the deployment of EU monitors.

Lavrov cast the deal, accompanied by the EU guarantees of non-aggression against the two breakaway provinces, as a victory for Russia.

"This document is based on an approach Russia has been defending since the start of the crisis," he said.

He said that Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be represented at an international conference on security in the region set to open in Geneva next month.

War erupted between Georgia and Russia erupted on Aug. 7 when Georgia launched an attack to regain control over South Ossetia. Russia sent in troops who quickly routed the Georgian forces and pushed deep into Georgia.