Putin approves army deal with Georgia's South Ossetia
Russian president seeks to incorporate some military units of the breakaway region into the Russian army
Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved the government's proposal to integrate some military units of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia into the Russian army.
Putin instructed the Russian defence ministry to sign an agreement with South Ossetia on Moscow's behalf, according Ria Novosti and Tass news agencies, which cited information published on the government's website on Tuesday.
The deal would allow the Russian military to recruit South Ossetian soldiers as contractors, but they would first have to be dismissed from active duty by South Ossetia, reported Tass.
Leonid Tibilov, the de-facto leader of South Ossetia, said last year the self-declared republic would retain its army while part of its military would serve in the Russian armed forces.
"Transfer of some units of South Ossetian Armed Forces into the Russian army is at variance with the Russian legislation, that is why additional agreements to the Treaty on Alliance and Integration between South Ossetia signed in March 2015 will specify that some South Ossetian military will be integrated into units of the Russian Federation, notably the 4th Russian military base stationed in the republic," Tibilov was quoted as saying by Tass.
He also said it was not yet clear how many military servicemen would go into Russian units.
The Georgian government issued a statement condemning Russia's move, saying the decision was "one more obvious step towards de-facto annexation of South Ossetia".
"We call on the international community to assess in a proper way the so-called agreement and to demand that Russia fulfils international obligations," the statement said.
Russia recognised South Ossetia as an independent state in 2008 after fighting a short war with Georgia.
Georgia says it wants South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway region, back.