Sun, Jun 04, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Putin warns against aiding separatism

AP , NOVO-OGARYOVO, RUSSIA

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that the international community should not encourage separatist territorial claims, warning that a dangerous precedent could trigger a chain reaction.

Responding to a question about Montenegro's recent referendum, Putin said that supporting separatist bids could encourage others to follow the same path.

"Such precedents would negatively affect the situation not only on the post-Soviet space, not only on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, for whose peoples it would be hard to explain why the Albanians in Kosovo could separate from a state they are part of while they cannot," Putin said in a reference to two separatist territories in Georgia.

Putin said that the issue involved sorting out what the priority should be: safeguarding territorial integrity or "hard-to-define notions of historical justice and political feasibility."

"We can and must work out single rules, norms and approaches to similar events in different regions of the world, otherwise we will come to chaos. When we hear that in one part of Europe ... a certain approach is possible and in another place it's absolutely inadmissible, it's hard for us to understand," he said.

Russia has had close ties to the authorities in both South Ossetia and Abhazia, drawing angry protests from Georgia.

Russia and Georgia have quarreled over the presence of Russian peacekeepers in both territories, and many Georgian politicians have called for their withdrawal.

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