TSKHINVALI, Georgia – Officials in South Ossetia said Friday that Russia intends eventually to absorb the breakaway Georgian province.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the region's leader, Eduard Kokoity, discussed South Ossetia's future earlier this week in Moscow, South Ossetian parliamentary speaker Znaur Gassiyev said.
Russia will absorb South Ossetia "in several years" or earlier, a position that was "firmly stated by both leaders," Gassiyev said.
A Kremlin spokeswoman said she had no such information and declined immediate comment.
Moscow has recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a second separatist region of Georgia, as independent, drawing criticism from the West. Russia found itself unable to shore up its own international support when China and four former Soviet republics in Central Asia refused a Moscow appeal to recognize the territories.
Russia accuses Georgia of starting the five-day war between the two countries earlier this month by attacking South Ossetia on Aug. 7. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says the U.S. instigated the fighting by encouraging Georgia to use force to rein in the separatist region.
Gassiyev's deputy, Tarzan Kokoiti, said South Ossetia has the right to reunite with North Ossetia, which is part of Russia.
"We will live in one united Russian state," he said.