Georgia rebels celebrate Kremlin recognition

Residents in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia fired into the air, opened bottles of champagne and wept on Tuesday after Russia recognized it and a second breakaway region as independent.

In Sukhumi, Abkhazia's palm tree-lined capital on the Black Sea coast, office workers spilled into the streets moments after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a statement he was recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"We feel happy. We all have tears in our eyes. We feel pride for our people," said Aida Gubaz, a 38-year-old lawyer. "Everything we went through, now we are getting our reward," she told Reuters.

A Reuters reporter in Sukhumi said she could hear celebratory gunfire and saw people opening bottles of champagne. She said she saw several people weeping with joy.

In Tskhinvali, capital of Georgia's second rebel region of South Ossetia, a Reuters photographer said about 500 people had gathered in the central square.

He said there was a deafening roar from people firing from Kalashnikov rifles and antique hunting rifles. Other people were waving the flags of South Ossetia and Abkhazia , hugging each other and chanting: "Long live South Ossetia."

"It seems as though people are firing from every courtyard in the town," the photographer, who could barely be heard over the sound of gunfire, said by telephone.

Georgia and Russia fought a brief war over South Ossetia earlier this month after Georgia sent in troops to try to retake the separatist province by force. Russia responded with a massive counter-attack by land, sea and air.

[Source: By Indira Bartsits, Reuters, Sukhumi, Geo, 26Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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