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Russia's statements on intention to protect its citizens on the territory
Russia's statements on intention to protect its citizens on the territory of two Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are illegitimate, the Georgian president said on Saturday.

Mikheil Saakashvili said that "Under the Constitution all people living on the Georgian soil are the citizens of Georgia and the country has a constitutional obligation and the right to protect its territory and citizens."

He added that "if there are citizens of Russia in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, then they are living there illegally."

His statement comes in the wake of the statement made by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which said on Friday that Moscow could be forced to reconsider its relations with two Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo unilaterally declares independence.

"Georgia will never allow questioning its state borders and territorial integrity," the president said adding that, "We want to settle all issues of bilateral relations with Russia in a civilized and friendly way."

South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia following bloody conflicts in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. Georgia's current pro-Western leadership has been seeking to recover its influence in the separatist regions and secure international support on the issue.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in its statement on Friday that, "The declaration of sovereignty by Kosovo and its recognition will doubtlessly be taken into account in [Russia's] relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

Earlier in the day the Georgian Foreign Ministry summoned Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko and handed him a note of protest in connection with the Russian ministry's statement.


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