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Tbilisi says Russia is blackmailing the international community

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, May 21
Georgia has accused Russia of attempting to “disrupt” the Geneva discussions on the situation in the Georgian conflict regions on May 18-19.

“The fifth round of the Geneva discussions was marred by the efforts of the Russian Federation to disrupt the talks on the most serious issues. It is now obvious that Russia is trying to use the Geneva peace talks as a tool to blackmail the international community. This time Russia resorted to the threats to quit the Geneva discussions, using them as leverage on developments at the United Nations,” said the Georgian Foreign Ministry in a special statement published on May 19.

Russia on its part accused Georgia of displaying an “undiminished will to return to itself by any means possible the lands and people lost as a result of its aggression last August.” Speaking after the end of the Geneva discussions, Russian Deputy Foreign Minster Grigory Karasin stated that Russia proposed to the participants of the discussion a “non-aggression agreement” which was “relevant” to the current situation in the South Caucasus. Despite the fact that the sides didn’t agree to this or any other suggestion, Russian representatives still hope to return to them at next, sixth, round of negotiations, scheduled for July 1.

Georgia stresses the necessity of Russia fulfilling the terms of the ceasefire agreement signed in August 2008, according to which both sides were obliged to withdraw their troops to the positions they held before the start of the war, in order to reduce tensions in the conflict zone. “It is deplorable that the participants from Russia openly stated that they do not respect Article 5 of the ceasefire agreement in defiance of their international commitments,” stated the Georgian Foreign Ministry, commenting on the Geneva talks.

Soon after the August conflict Russia announced plans to create several military bases on the territory of the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It was announced that the number of servicemen in each region will reach about 4,000. This force deployment will include creating naval and air force bases in Abkhazia. In April 2009 Russia signed a treaty with representatives of the Georgian separatist regions which stipulates that Russian soldiers will control the administrative border between Georgia and its breakaway regions.

The Russian Border Guard Service, which is part of the Federal Security Service, has said it will complete the formation of its unit in Abkhazia by the end of May. It has been announced that 800 soldiers are already taking positions on the administrative border with Abkhazia. A total of twenty border crossing points will be established, according to a statement released by the Russian Border Guard Service unit in Abkhazia, as reported by the Abkhazian Apsnypress news agency. Moscow has also announced plans to provide Russian bases in Abkhazia with “light armoured vehicles” such as T-62 tanks. “T-62 tanks performed very well during the military actions in Chechnya,” Russian news agency Interfax quoted a spokesperson from Russian Defence Ministry as saying. The same source states that the air base in Abkhazia will be equipped with jet fighters, ground-attack aircraft and military helicopters. An S-300 Air Defence missile system will protect the base, located in the Abkhazian town of Gudauta.

Georgia states that Russia is obstructing the work of international monitoring groups in an attempt to “hide its increase of military potential and the humanitarian catastrophe” in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In May 2009, Moscow vetoed the prolongation of the OSCE military monitors’ mandate in Georgia. On May 18, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon presented a report proposing a new UN monitoring mission which will conduct observations on the territory of Abkhazia. Speaker of the Georgian Parliament David Bakradze noted that “there will be a real struggle” between Russia and the “friends and partner countries of Georgia” over the adoption of the resolution based on Ban Ki-moon’s report at the UN Security Council at the end of May.