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The world wants answers, but Russia won’t let it find them

By David Matsaberidze
Monday, September 8
Accusations continue to fly between different nations over events in Georgia. The EU is preparing to send monitors and is demanding an inquiry into the Russian-Georgian conflict. Russia is accusing the US of providing military assistance to Georgia under the pretext of humanitarian aid, but this is strongly denied by the US. Russia has met severe criticism from Italy, Germany and several other countries, who are demanding the complete withdrawal of the Russian military from Georgia.

EU Foreign Ministers gathered in Avignon, France, on September 5 unanimously agreed that an international inquiry is needed into what led to the armed conflict between Russia and Georgia. As Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, said on September 6, “We were all in favour of an international inquiry. No allegation, no provocation without proof: we have to know what happened,” adding that “Russia should fully honour the commitments undertaken by President Medvedev in signing the six-point ceasefire accord.” The Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, joined Kouchner in saying “an inquiry should be held even if it hurts feelings.” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also supported the idea of sending international observers to the region, who can give an objective assessment of what happened and what is going on now.

By the end of September 6, OSCE observers had started patrolling the Tskhinvali region. They had inspected the Karaleti-Megvrekisi sector of road, four kilometres from Tskhinvali. Reportedly, the observers had also patrolled the village of Meghvrekisi. However, Russian soldiers did not let an OSCE parliamentary assembly official travel to this region.

Russia does not want to allow the EU to be active in regional affairs, saying “war was imposed on us and the world is not the same after August 8.” Speaking at a meeting of Russia’s State Council, President Medvedev claimed that the US has delivered arms to Georgia under the guise of humanitarian aid. Confirming his readiness to act in accordance with international norms, Medvedev attacked President Saakashvili, saying: “The tragedy in South Ossetia has demonstrated that there are unprincipled politicians around whose actions pose a serious threat to international law and stability, and also that Russia will never allow anyone to infringe upon the lives and dignity of its citizens. Russia is a nation to be reckoned with from now on," he stressed. Medvedev hopes that all the federal entities of the Russian Federation will provide assistance to South Ossetia in rebuilding its infrastructure.

Medvedev also said that the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) supported Russia’s “active role in facilitating peace and cooperation” in the region and criticized Georgia’s “attempts to resolve the South Ossetian conflict through the use of force.” The final declaration of the meeting of the Presidents of CSTO member states, held in Moscow on September 5, said nothing about this, nor Russia’s decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia, stressing that “All of the partners in CSTO will decide on these matters individually – as it should be – based on common principles and norms of international law and guided by their national interests.”

Russia has expressed further concerns over the entry of US warship Mount Whitney into the Port of Poti. Russian military official Andrei Nesterenko said that “the arrival in a Georgian port of the USS Mount Whitney, a sophisticated command warship, may breach a 1936 convention on naval activity in the Black Sea”, but ruled out any military action by Russian forces over its presence, adding that “should the convention be violated, then the issue should probably be considered by the United Nations or other international organizations.” Responding to the Russian allegations, US State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said, “We certainly reject the Russian charges. As you know the USS Mount Whitney arrived in Poti with humanitarian supplies such as 4,000 blankets, juice, diapers, hygiene products. There’s absolutely no foundation to this Russian charge.” Wood also reconfirmed the two most important objectives of the US – to deliver assistance to the Georgian people and to make Russia live up to its commitments under the ceasefire agreement.

Italy and France have repeated their demands that Russia pull out of Georgia and slammed its policy towards Georgia. On September 5 Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, stressing the necessity of complying with the French-brokered six-point document. Frattini also urged Russia to remove illegal military checkpoints, whereas Russia declared it would “wait for the arrival of international observers in South Ossetia”. President of Poland Lech Kaczynski has also slammed Russian policy towards Georgia, stressing that official Warsaw has demonstrated its sharp and critical position towards the Kremlin: “the actions taken by Moscow against Georgia were unacceptable for Poland and contradicted the interests of this country as well”, Kaczynski stated, adding that Russia’s policy towards Ukraine was another reason for concern. Kaczynski, pointing to the fact that Russia questioned the territorial integrity of Ukraine, reiterated the need for Georgia's and Ukraine's integration into NATO.

Parliament Chairman David Bakradze is about to visit the U.S., where he will meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at UN Headquarters. He will also meet with the ambassadors of all UN Security Council member states apart from Russia.