Russian lawmakers recognize Georgia separatists

MOSCOW (AP) -- The European Union and the U.S. say Georgia's two breakaway provinces should remain part of Georgia following a unanimous vote by the Russian parliament to recognize their independence.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says recognizing the independence of the breakaway provinces would create a "very difficult, critical situation" for the territorial integrity of Georgia. The U.S. State Department says Russian recognition of the regions "would be unacceptable."

Also, the White House has announced that Vice President Cheney will visit Georgia next month.

The votes by both chambers of Russia's parliament aren't legally binding. The speaker of the parliament's lower chamber says the region always has been and will be in the zone of Russia's strategic interests.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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