Medvedev approved the move a day after parliament voted unanimously in favor of it.
Defying the United States and Europe, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced Tuesday he has signed a decree recognizing the independence of the breakaway Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
"This is not an easy choice, but this is the only chance to save people's lives," Mr. Medvedev said in a televised address a day after Russia's Kremlin-controlled parliament voted unanimously to support the diplomatic recognition.
Medvedev's declaration comes as Russian forces remain in Georgia after a war, staking out positions beyond the de facto borders of the separatist regions. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have effectively ruled themselves following wars with Georgia in the 1990s.
Russia's military presence seems likely to further weaken Georgia, a Western ally in the Caucasus region, a major transit corridor for energy supplies to Europe, and a strategic crossroads.
Russian tanks and troops drove deep into the US ally's territory in a five-day war this month that Moscow saw as a justified response to a threat in its backyard. The West viewed it as a repeat of Soviet-style intervention in its vassal states.
Medvedev said Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had forced Russia's hand by launching an Aug. 7-8 overnight attack to seize control of South Ossetia by force. "Saakashvili chose genocide to fulfill his political plans," he said. "Georgia chose the least human way to achieve its goal – to absorb South Ossetia by eliminating a whole nation."