BERLIN, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- The Russian president has recognized the breakaway Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, sparking outrage in the West.
"This is not an easy choice, but it is the only way to save the lives of people," Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, said Tuesday in a televised address.
"It stands quite clear now: A peaceful resolution of the conflict was not part of Tbilisi's plan," he said. "The Georgian leadership was methodically preparing for war, while the political and material support provided by their foreign guardians only served to reinforce the perception of their own impunity."
Several governments in Europe, notably in Britain, France and Germany, have denounced the step.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking Tuesday in Tallinn, Estonia, called Medvedev's formal recognition of the provinces a "violation ... of international law" and "absolutely unacceptable."
"I think the whole of the European Union will come forward in stating this very clearly," she said during her trip to the Baltic state.
Merkel said the step is making a solution of the Caucasus crisis harder, but added that she wanted to maintain a dialogue with the Kremlin.
Medvedev urged other nations to recognize the provinces, but none in Europe are expected to do so. Observers are sure that Medvedev's decision will further aggravate the conflict between Russia and the West.
The conflict in the Caucasus erupted earlier this month when Russia reacted to a Georgian attack on separatists in South Ossetia with an extensive military campaign that ended with a Georgian defeat and a European-brokered cease-fire agreement.