Putin pledges support for breakaway region

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The Independent Online

The Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pledged $500m (£300m) to defend the breakaway region of Abkhazia during a surprise visit yesterday which Georgia said had escalated tensions in the Caucasus.

Mr Putin's tour underscores Russia's increased foothold in the rebel regions since its troops repelled a Georgian attempt to retake South Ossetia in a five-day war a year ago. Tensions have been rising along the de facto borders between the regions and Georgia proper, raising concerns that another conflict could be sparked easily.

"With today's Georgian leadership, you cannot rule anything out," Mr Putin said.