South Ossetian leader Leonid Tibilov signed an “alliance and integration” treaty with Russian in the Kremlin on Wednesday. The treaty integrates the security services, the military, the economy and border guards of South Ossetia with those of Russia.
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili denounced the signing as a "destructive" move against his nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity and said it would further exacerbate tensions. The United States, the European Union and NATO also strongly condemned the signing.
South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union collapsed. Russia effectively gained complete control over it and a second breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, after a brief war against Georgia in 2008.
A similar treaty was signed last year with Abkhazia. Both regions depend on subsidies from Russia. While Abkhazia is a lush sliver of land along the Black Sea coast, South Ossetia sticks like a thumb into northern Georgia.
Under the agreement signed Wednesday in the Kremlin, South Ossetia's military and economy are to be incorporated into Russia's. The treaty also promises to make it easier for South Ossetians to get Russian citizenship and to raise salaries for civil servants and state pensions.