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Russia losing every friend it had

By David Matsaberidze
Monday, September 1
The recent developments in Georgia remain a major issue for the international community, as the Georgian Government tries to attract sufficient attention to the Russian occupation to make sure Europe takes stern measures against it.

Georgia has now cut off its relations with Russia. On August 30 the Georgian Government began to implement the Parliamentary resolution entitled “Occupation of the Georgian Territories by the Russian Federation.” The resolution demands that the executive branch of government breaks off all diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation introduces a new visa regime for Russian citizens from September 8 and discontinues the expedited visa procedure for Russian citizens. An official note concerning this has been handed to the Russian envoy in Georgia. As a representative of the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported at a special press conference, new visa requirements will be applied at diplomatic representations and consulates.

On August 30, at a Government meeting held in Poti, President Saakashvili stated that the main aim of Russia when it undertook its action had been to capture Tbilisi and topple the government. He also stressed the need to for Georgia to ratify a so-called “Patriotic Act”, strengthening democracy and freedom.

New initiatives are constantly being voiced by senior Western politicians, who at the same time criticize Russia for its violation of the six point ceasefire agreement. Prime Minister of Great Britain Gordon Brown has stressed the necessity for the EU to “overview and transform its relations with Russia … There are not only rights, but also responsibilities, incumbent on the members of WTO and G8,” he said. Germany also supports the idea of temporarily suspending Russia from G8, as “no conditions, economic or political, set as the preconditions for its membership, have ever been fulfilled.” Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) in Parliament, stated that Russia had to be temporarily excluded from G8 meetings because of its actions in Georgia. As he said, “The West accepted Russia as a member of the G8 grouping of the most important democratic industrial nations even though it fulfilled neither the economic nor the political requirements, thus, these nations should meet in the old G7 format.”

Meanwhile, White House spokesperson Dana Perino expressed her concerns over Russia’s unwillingness to comply with the responsibilities it took on when it signed the six point agreement, and described Georgia’s decision to cut diplomatic relations with Russia as “a normal and highly expected step” after the recent developments in the Georgian-Russian relations. “The situation should return to that of 7 August,” Perino stressed. The head of the Foreign Affairs Office of Bulgaria, Ivailo Kalfin, suggested that the EU strengthen its pressure on Russia and support Georgia’s membership of NATO. Kalfin termed the recognition of the breakaway regions by Russia as “a bad way” to deal with the international situations.

Criticism of the Russian Government has come from Russian opposition forces as well. The United Civil Front has declared its support for Georgia. As Gary Kasparov stated, “the West should have reacted to the imposition of internal occupation by Russia.” Human Rights activist Sergei Kovaliov has stated that he “apologizes before the Georgian people” and terms Russia’s conduct “well-planned provocation.”

The Daily Telegraph from the United Kingdom has filled its pages with the recent developments in Georgia, stating that a new Cold War could blow up in the Caucasus, a region it believes has only recently been discovered by most of the international community. The Telegraph believes that the Russian invasion has brought popularity and sympathy to the President of Georgia; Saakashvili’s interviews with the Western media were a “good” weapon to use against the Russian military machine.

The Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili has held a special press conference, declaring the Moscow agreement of May 14, 1994 over “Ceasefire and Separation of Armed Units” to be null and void. Meanwhile, the Georgian side termed the six point agreement as the sole applicable framework for future relations concerning Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region.

The UN Commissioner for Refugees, Melita Sunjin, has stated that “Russian forces still remain on the territory of Georgia, hindering the return of Georgians to their homes and villages.” Irakli Alasania, Georgia’s permanent representative at the United Nations, has once again demanded the withdrawal of the Russian forces at a special UN session. “Russia continues its occupation of the territory of Georgia and tries to damage the country. We are keeping to the six point agreement and demand that Russia takes its forces from Georgian territory.”

On August 29 the special session of OSCE was held. The meeting discussed Georgian-Russian relations. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Eka Tkeshelashvili, stated, “the OSCE responded immediately to recent developments. The OSCE office contributed the promulgation of the new ceasefire agreement and at the same time expressed its readiness to continue the monitoring process.” Tkeshelashvili hoped for adequate statements and reports from the side of the OSCE monitoring mission expected to visit Georgia.