Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that his country now recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations.
“Venezuela joins the recognition of independence of the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the South American leader said during his visit to Russia.
He added that Caracas will soon take action to establish official diplomatic links with both countries.
Commenting on the news, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said: “We always said it was the sovereign right of every nation to either recognize them or not to, so this is a big commitment.”
He thanked Chavez for supporting Russia's stance on South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has also met with the Venezuelan leader, noted that the move by Venezuela is evidence of the independence of its foreign policy.
"We see this decision as a coordination of our efforts in the global arena, as support of Russia’s aspirations to make international relations more democratic,” said Putin.
Commenting on the news, Dmitry Medoev, South Ossetian ambassador to Moscow, said that he hoped other countries would now follow the lead. His hopes were shared by Abkhazian President Sergey Bagapsh. Speaking to RT, he said that what happened on Thursday has crucial importance for his state.
“It means victory of both Russia’s and our diplomacy. It means that we have chosen the right policy in our work with other countries. And I believe this is the beginning of further recognition of our countries by other states.”
Meanwhile, Georgia has taken an opposite view on the prospects of further recognition of independence of its former territories. Temur Yakobashvili, Georgian Minister for Reintegration, whose main task is to put South Ossetia and Abkhazia back under Tbilisi’s authority, called Chavez’s move “an anomaly”, and the Latin American leader himself “a marginal”.
“Such statements of recognition are a process of crystallization and put apart normal states and rogue states,” the official said.
He claimed the move was a result of “Russia’s putting pressure on its partners.”
Venezuela’s move isn’t expected to have a major effect on other ties, but could pave the way for issues of de-facto independence to be more widely discussed on global platforms.
“Venezuela has a vote in the UN General Assembly and sometimes in the Security Council. So it’s important that someone else – apart from Russia and potentially Nicaragua – will be able to defend the points that Russia has so far been defending alone on the international arena,” said Mikhail Troitsky, political analyst from Moscow State University of International Relations.
Venezuela became the third member of the United Nations after Russia and Nicaragua to support the independence of the former Georgian republics.
Russia recognized them shortly after defending South Ossetia from an attack by Georgian forces in 2008.
The majority of other nations, including four other members of the UN Security Council opposed the move, saying that the principle of territorial integrity was more important in this case than the right of nations to self-determination.