MOSCOW — The Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, made a surprise visit to breakaway South Ossetia on Monday, inspecting a new Russian military base there and promising citizens that Russia would rebuild neighborhoods destroyed during last year’s brief war between Russia and Georgia.
The visit underlined the stark differences that remain between Russia and the United States after last week’s presidential meeting. The “reset” of relations has sidestepped the issue of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, breakaway Georgian territories that have been under Russian protection since the war.
During his visit to Moscow last week, President Obama reiterated his “firm belief that Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected,” saying he hoped that Russia and the United States “work through our disagreements on Georgia’s borders.”
But Russia’s foothold in the territories is only getting stronger, a fact underscored by Mr. Medvedev’s visit to the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin is planning a visit to Abkhazia later this summer.
“Hang on, everything will be fine, we will rebuild,” Mr. Medvedev told a cheering crowd in Tskhinvali’s main square, where he was greeted with a jug of wine and a stack of hot cheese pies. He also laid a flower at a memorial to Ossetians killed in a previous rebellion against Georgia.
During a televised ceremony, the South Ossetian president, Eduard Kokoity, formally thanked Mr. Medvedev for recognizing South Ossetia as a sovereign nation, and for “the salvation of our tiny people.”
A South Ossetian official said she had been preparing for a visit by “the first people of Russia” for several months. Irina Gagloyeva, the territory’s minister of press and information, said Mr. Medvedev’s trip took on a special meaning because it closely followed Mr. Obama’s visit — reassuring those who feared that Russia would relax its support of South Ossetia in the warming Russian-United States relationship.
“Russia has once more confirmed its decision about the recognition of our independence,” she said.
Georgian politicians reacted angrily, saying Mr. Medvedev’s visit had been planned to challenge Mr. Obama — or as a response to a Monday ceremony initiating Nabucco, a planned natural gas pipeline that would run through Georgia to Europe, circumventing Russian control. Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who was in Ankara, Turkey, for the signing of an intergovernmental agreement for the pipeline, called the visit a “shameful and immoral precedent” for Russian diplomacy.
“When the leader of small Georgia left the country to settle very important issues, the president of big Russia silently stole into one of the smallest regions, and personally met with an unwashed, corrupt criminal and killer of humans,” he said, referring to Mr. Kokoity of South Ossetia.
Olesya Vartanyan contributed reporting from Tbilisi, Georgia.