Eduard Kokoity also said that a number of countries would also recognize Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian republic, before the end of the year.
"Some countries will recognize our republics [South Ossetia and Abkhazia]. I cannot rule out that some of them may do so later this year. Russia, however, will not necessarily be the first to recognize our independence," Kokoity told the press after a meeting with Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the International Affairs Committee at the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.
The announcement came just days after Kosovo declared unilateral independence from Serbia, leading to a rift between global powers. Despite claims by the West that Kosovo was a unique case and should not set a precedent, Russia has warned the U.S. that the move to acknowledge Pristina's sovereignty was 'undermining international law," and would lead to a "chain reaction" of similar announcements by secessionist-minded republics and territories.
The U.S., Australia, and several leading European countries, including Britain, France, Italy and Germany have so far recognized Kosovo, while Russia, China and Spain have condemned the move.
However, Kosachyov warned on Tuesday that the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent republics could trigger a serious crisis in the CIS, an association of former Soviet republics.
"We should understand that by recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia we could trigger a serious crisis in the CIS," he said, adding that over half of all ex-Soviet states "have their own Kosovo and Abkhazia."
Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another Georgian breakaway republic, declared their independence from Georgia in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Bloody conflicts ensued and many were killed and made homeless. Georgia's current leadership has been seeking to recover its influence in the separatist regions and secure international support on the issue.
The South Ossetian leader maintained that his republic and Abkhazia possessed more political, legal and historical grounds for claiming sovereignty than Kosovo. However, he said their independence should be proclaimed in a civilized manner.
"At first we should obtain independence legislatively and then become integrated into Russia as much as possible," Kokoity said, adding that 95% of South Ossetia's residents were Russians "at heart, if not by passport."
Moscow had earlier hinted that it would recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia if the West acknowledged Pristina's declaration of independence from Serbia. Following Sundays' events, the Russian parliament released a joint statement by both houses of parliament that read: "Now that the situation in Kosovo has become an international precedent, Russia should take into account the Kosovo scenario...when considering ongoing territorial conflicts."
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