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Forced to back down, Russia still rattles its sabres

By David Matsaberidze
Thursday, September 11
Russian military units are gradually leaving the territory of Georgia, while their Government is locked in tense negotiations with the EU.

Russia still strictly opposes the deployment of the EU observers on the territory of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and is sending more of its own troops there. “Russian military units, comprised of 3,800 personnel each, will be deployed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation stated after a meeting with President Medvedev at which the recent developments in the Caucasus in general, and in Georgia in particular, were discussed in detail. Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov stated, “EU observers will not enter Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as the UN and OSCE missions will continue to function in these territories in the manner they did before August 7.” Lavrov stressed that guarantees over non aggression against Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been introduced by the EU, and accordingly Russia will demand that the EU itself fulfils those guarantees.

The Russian Duma is also discussing increasing the defence budget, as “there is a strong need for modernization and reorganization.” The head of the Russian Duma Boris Gryzlov made an official statement regarding the increase in defence spending at a special press conference, adding that “a special legislative basis should be created for this action and the legislature is already considering various possibilities in this direction.” The document discussed in the Duma was entitled “The Main Tasks of Military Units and the Problems of Building the Army Under the Threat of War.” Sergey Lavrov and Minister of Defence Anatoly Serdiukov attended the session and discussed the experience gained during the aggression against Georgia.

“The discussion has crucial significance as it is directly related to the conflict and Georgian aggression in South Ossetia. New conditions should be created so as to exclude potential threats and contain existing ones,” Gryzlov stressed.

Despite the tone of Russia’s statements however, Russian military units are gradually leaving Georgia. Checkpoints are being removed and fortifications taken down. The aggressors declare that the process will take several days and that they will have left by Saturday. Late in the evening of September 9, four URAL type vehicles entered the Senaki military base, taking away personal belongings of members of the Georgian military units and Georgian Ministry of Defence property. The Russians appear to be preparing to leave Poti as well: military checkpoints in Nabada and across the Black Sea coast are being gradually removed and heavy artillery dismantled. The numbers of military personnel and heavy artillery there have decreased significantly. The construction of fortifications has also stopped.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia has publicized the declaration of the Council of Europe and the European Commission which was signed by the leaders of these two organizations and presented to the President of Georgia by President Sarkozy of France on September 9. This condemns the Russian Federation for its unilateral recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia: “the EU supports the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, its sovereignty and independence.” The heads of the Council of Europe and European Commission pledge the necessity of immediate compliance with the six point agreement signed in Moscow on August 12 and stated the necessity of “the urgent return of IDPs to their homes.” The EU once again expressed its readiness to deploy international observers in the whole of Georgia.

International peacekeepers should be deployed in the region, not only around the borders of the conflict zone, but inside it as well. International forces will serve as a guarantee for the peaceful return of IDPs.