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Russia violates international law

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, May 5

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has condemned Russia’s strengthening of the South Ossetian and Abkhazian administrative borders. Speaking at the traditional Monday press briefing, the head of the Foreign Ministry Political Department Zurab Katchkatchishvili said that Russia has started “active works” towards strengthening the administrative border close to Gali district. Katchkatchishvili said the works are being undertaken under the agreement signed between the de facto leaders of Georgia’s breakaway regions and President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev on joint ‘border’ control.

“Russia’s actions are a violation of all norms of international law,” Katchkatchishvili said, adding that the Russian Foreign Ministry is doing its best to legitimize the occupation of Georgian territories. “It seems that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is taking on the function of a tourist agency as well, because Foreign Ministry staff are making official statements about the attractiveness of resorts in Abkhazia,” Katchkatchishvili said, calling on the Russian Foreign Ministry not to forget that “they are talking about occupied Georgian territories.”

Meanwhile the Georgian media has reported that importing construction materials to bolster the administrative borders in Abkhazia is in progress. Georgian officials have already called this “yet another step towards the full annexation” of the occupied territories by Russia. Rustavi 2 TV reported on Monday that eight tunnels are being built in different places on de facto Abkhazian territory, allegedly to keep explosives in. Additional troops and military equipment are being deployed in Upper Abkhazia as well, Rustavi 2 said.

“Additional Russian equipment and troops have been deployed in Upper Abkhazia and Russian soldiers are occupying the deserted homes of Georgians,” the head of the Tbilisi-backed Abkhazian Government-in-Exile, Malkhaz Akishbaia, said on Monday. “In these circumstances the statements of the puppet regime about its readiness to return IDPs to their homes sound cynical,” Akishbaia added. He stressed that some specific steps should be taken in order to solve the problem. “Russia’s actions are yet another reflection of its aggressive policy. We will raise this issue at the next round of Geneva talks. I think that a peaceful resolution of this problem is only possible through the active involvement of the international community. At the same time we should not be confined to only condemnation of Russia’s actions, we should take some specific steps,” Akishbaia said.

Border works are underway in the Tskhinvali region as well. The leader of de facto South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity, said that the deployment of more Russian soldiers in South Ossetia was a “May present” from Moscow. The separatist leader hailed the professionalism of the Russian troops. The head of the Russian regional border forces, Nikolai Lisinsky, said the Russian side does not exclude some provocations from the Georgian side. “We are in full readiness to respond adequately, within the frames of the law,” Rustavi 2 quoted Lisinsky as saying.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has called on the international community to react to the mobilization of military contingents on the Georgian occupied territories. “The world has already recognized Russia’s action as a full annexation,” Zurab Katchkatchishvili said.

The de facto South Ossetian regime’s news agency Osinform reported on May 4 that delegations from the EU, UN and OSCE are due to visit Tbilisi and Tskhinvali this week. Special representatives of three international organizations Johan Verbecke, Pierre Morel and Charalampos Christopoulos met the de facto Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba on Monday. According to the Regnum news agency the sides discussed the upcoming Geneva talks, due to be held on May 18-19. At the meeting Pierre Morel of the EU said that it is necessary to seek ways to resolve the existing problems within the framework of the Geneva discussions. De facto Foreign Minister Shamba said that if the participants of the discussions do not see tangible changes, the Geneva talks will lose their purpose.

The delegations of the UN, EU and OSCE will also visit Tskhinvali.