MOSCOW, September 10 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Thursday his country recognizes Georgia's two former breakaway republics as independent states.
During talks with President Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin, Chavez said: "I want to take the opportunity to announce that Venezuela is joining those recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia."
Chavez said Venezuela will start the relevant procedures today.
Moscow recognized the two pro-Russian regions after a brief was last August to repel Georgia's attack on South Ossetia. The move, seen partly as response to the broad recognition of Kosovo's independence from Serbia, was condemned internationally.
Nicaragua was until recently the only other country to have followed Russia's suit. Russian media reports have said that more Latin American nations could recognize the two republics, which have maintained de-facto independence since bloody post-Soviet conflicts with Georgia in the early 1990s.
Moscow's ex-Soviet allies, including Belarus, have so far refrained from recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Ex-Soviet Georgia, backed by the United States and Europe, severed diplomatic ties with Russia last year over it's recognition of the republics.
Medvedev told Chavez: "We have been taking these states' fate close to heart and I want to thank you for this decision."
The Venezuelan leader is in Russia on a two-day working visit, his seventh as president, which is part of his 11-day foreign tour.
The visit is dominated by energy and military deals. A senior Kremlin official said on Wednesday that Russia was considering granting Venezuela a loan to buy more Russian arms.
Chavez has recently announced plans to buy dozens of Russian tanks in response to U.S. plans to deploy military bases in neighboring Colombia.