Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 15:33 UK

Russia's border pact with rebels

Russia's President Medvedev seals the deal with S Ossetia's leader 30 April 2009
The treaty allows Russia to extend its period of border control

Russia has signed a five-year deal taking formal control of its de facto borders with two breakaway regions of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Nato said Russia was in "clear contravention" of the ceasefire ending last year's conflict with Georgia.

The deal comes ahead of planned Nato exercises in Georgia next week, which Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev has described as "overt provocation".

Russia and Nato only resumed formal contacts on Wednesday.

The two rivals have been gradually rebuilding ties after breaking off contacts over the war.

But relations remain difficult. Nato expelled two Russian diplomats on Thursday over a spy scandal, infuriating Russia.

Nato exercises

Mr Medvedev signed the border defence treaties with the leaders of the separatist regions at a ceremony in the Kremlin on Thursday.

It allows Russia to extend its period of border control at the request of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The BBC's Richard Galpin says the length of the deal is significant but it will change little on the ground.

Our correspondent says that while Russia is keen to improve relations with Nato, it is also concerned to show its anger at Nato's plans for next month's military exercises.

"One cannot carry out exercises in a place where there was just a war," Mr Medvedev said at the ceremony.

Nato has previously said the exercises will be non-aggressive, involve no heavy armour, and be based on a fictitious UN-mandated, Nato-led crisis response operation.

During the brief war last August, Georgia's attempts to regain control of its breakaway region of South Ossetia were repelled by Russian forces.

Georgian troops were eventually ejected from South Ossetia and the other breakaway region of Abkhazia, both of which Russia subsequently recognised as independent states - a move which drew strong international condemnation.

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