Russian President Dmitri Medvedev defied U.S. pressure and signed a decree Tuesday recognizing the independence of the breakaway Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
"I have signed decrees on the recognition by the Russian Federation of the independence of South Ossetia and the independence of Abkhazia," he said in a televised announcement.
The decrees indicate that Moscow will establish diplomatic ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and will sign partnership pacts with them.
Medvedev's move will further complicate strained relations with the United States and other Western nations that have expressed dismay over Russia's continued troop presence in Georgia. Moscow's forces invaded Georgia earlier this month to support separatists in South Ossetia.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Russia's move "regrettable."
Tuesday's declaration came as Russian forces staked out positions beyond the de facto borders of the separatist regions. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have effectively ruled themselves since wars in the 1990s.
From wire reports