President Dmitry Medvedev has denied widespread reports that Russia has tried to persuade Belarus to recognize the pro-Russian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
Russia recognized the former Georgian republics after a brief war with Georgia in the summer of 2008.
"I never approached the leader of Belarus [Alexander Lukashenko] or any other Belarusian official, neither directly or indirectly, neither publicly nor privately, with such a proposal", Medvedev said in response to a Belarusian reporter's question.
He also ruled out encouraging other countries to recognize the republics. Russia's recognition step has so far been replicated by only Nicaragua and Venezuela.
"I never asked this and never will, because it's none of my business - it's the prerogative of each state, whether to recognize or not."
He said Russia's decision to recognize the republics "was very difficult... It was taken only after Georgia committed an act of aggression against the two territories, and was done to protect citizens living there, including Russians, and to avert such conflicts in the future."
Abkhazia and South Ossetia asked Belarus to recognize their independence last year. However, Belarus has so far refused to join Russia in recognizing the republics.
Last week, Belarusian lawmakers visited Georgia's borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in order to study the situation on the ground and to consider the republics' request.
BARVIKHA (Moscow Region), November 23 (RIA Novosti)