World News

Russia to share dialling code with rebel Abkhazia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday that Georgia’s breakaway Abkhaz region would adopt its international dialling code, in a fresh sign of Moscow’s deepening influence.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov opens a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit on Afghanistan in Moscow March 27, 2009. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Abkhazia would start using Russia's +7 international dialling code. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin/Files

Moscow recognised the Black Sea rebel region and Georgia’s second breakaway territory, South Ossetia, as independent states after crushing Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia in August 2008.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Abkhazia would start using Russia’s +7 international dialling code, but did not say when.

“Agreement has been reached on transferring Abkhazia from the telephone code of Georgia to the Russian code,” he said while visiting the Abkhaz capital Sukhumi, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

“Of course, we will continue working with international organisations to provide Abkhazia with a separate code,” he said. Land lines in South Ossetia already carry the Russian +7 code, and Russian mobile phone operators cover both regions.

Georgia condemned the move.

“The Georgian side urges the respective U.N. authorities to prevent these illegal actions of the Russian Federation,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Only Nicaragua and Venezuela have followed Russia in recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent. The rest of the world considers them part of pro-Western Georgia.

Both are dependent militarily and economically on Russia.

A report commissioned by the European Union and issued on Wednesday said last year’s war was triggered by an unjustified Georgian assault on South Ossetia on the evening of Aug. 7 after a long period of increasing tensions and provocations.

It said Russia’s military response went beyond reasonable limits and violated international law, but that Georgian claims of a large-scale Russian invasion before Tbilisi’s Aug. 7 assault had not been substantiated.

Reporting by Matt Robinson and Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi; writing by Matt Robinson; editing by Tim Pearce