South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in wars in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Georgia and Russia fought a short war over the regions in August 2008 and Moscow, whose forces triumphed, recognized both as independent countries.
Assad owes much of his success against rebels in the country’s long-running war to Russian military support since 2015 and has developed close political and economic ties with Moscow.
His government’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia prompted condemnation by the U.S. State Department. Washington helped arm and train some rebel groups during the Syrian conflict and has called for Assad’s ouster.