Georgia's breakaway republics could join Russia-Belarus union

Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia say they would not rule out joining the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The Union State was formed in 1997 to provide equal trade rights and equal rights for citizens, but many of its plans were never brought into force. Georgia has criticised the plans, saying the move would only harm Russia.

The Georgian parliament is currently considering expanding the country's armed forces by 5,000 troops. It would make Georgia one of the most heavily militarised countries in the region and the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia fear that Tbilisi may invade them at any moment.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia separated from mainland Georgia in the early 1990s. They were never part of Georgia before the Soviet era, and decided to proclaim independence from Georgia after the fall of the USSR.

Tbilisi objected by sending its troops to the breakaway republics. A violent conflict claimed thousands of lives. Russian peacekeepers and members of the UN mission entered Abkhazia and South Ossetia to separate the conflicting sides. These forces are still stationed in the Gali region, Sukhumi and Tskhinvali. But there is growing pressure from Georgia, which wants these territories back.

On July 9, following Georgia's threat to invade the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, Russia sent its warplanes for a reconnaissance mission over the area. Tbilisi protested and recalled its ambassador from Moscow.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are firm in their desire to become recognised republics. They also say they are open to any alliances with their neighbours - including the possibility of joining the Union of Russia and Belarus.

So far there has been no official inquiry into the possibility of Abkhazia and South Ossetia joining the Union. But according to the Union's spokesman, Ivan Makushok, it is not a fantasy.

"Recently the Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba said to the Union State journal that Sukhumi keeps an eye on the Union and considers the possibility of joining it," he said.

Meanwhile, Georgia's authorities are sceptical about the possibility of the breakaway territories joining the alliance. They are certain that only Tbilisi has authority over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Abkhazia stopped all contact with Georgia several weeks ago, following a series of explosions in its resort cities of Gagra, Sukhumi and in the bordering Gali region. Abkhazia's de facto authorities blamed Georgia for organising the blasts that killed four people and injured more than a dozen others.

Leaders of the breakaway republic also ordered the closure of all border checkpoints until the end of the high season to prevent further incidents. It appears that Abkhazia does not believe Georgia's promises and wants new allies to protect it.