Nicaragua recognizes South Ossetia, Abkhazia

MANAGUA (Reuters) - Nicaragua has recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, backing Russia’s stance on the breakaway Georgian regions and siding with other leftist Latin American nations to defy Washington.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla leader who had close ties to Moscow during the Cold War, has criticized Georgia’s attempt to regain control of South Ossetia and supported a counterattack by Russia.

Venezuela and Cuba have sided with Russia in the dispute, but Ortega went further in fully recognizing the regions’ independence.

“The government of Nicaragua recognizes the independence of the republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and we are completely with the Russian government’s position,” Ortega said in a speech late on Tuesday.

Russian troops overwhelmed Georgia’s military in a brief war last month that sparked international condemnation. Moscow said it sent troops and tanks to defend South Ossetia from Georgia’s bid to retake the rebel region by force. Many world leaders also criticized Russia after it recognized the two regions as independent states.

Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestria -- itself not recognized internationally -- has followed Russia in formally acknowledging the regions’ independence.

Left-wing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said last week he backed Russia’s position on the regions, but stopped short of formally recognizing them. Russia’s neighbor and close ally Belarus did the same.

Ortega, who lost power in a 1990 election, was voted back into power in 2006 on a ticket of reconciliation, but the ex-rebel has irked Washington with his close friendship with Chavez.

Reporting by Ivan Castro, Writing by Catherine Bremer