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Russia issues more warnings

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, August 6
Russian officials have issued more warnings against provocations in Georgia’s breakaway regions, threatening to take “measures” if needed. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Andrei Nesterenko has said that Russia has increased its military readiness in South Ossetia.

The Georgian media also released statements by Russia’s representative at the UN Valeri Loshinin on Wednesday. He said that “if Tbilisi stages provocations on the anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war, it will receive a strict response.” Loshinin called on the international community to pay attention to the “facts of opening fire from the Georgian side.” He said it is concerning that the Georgian Government and the “forces standing behind them have not drawn due conclusions from last year’s adventure.”

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has expressed hope that “the international community will draw relevant conclusions about the August events sooner or later.” Speaking to the BBC, Lavrov once more accused Georgia of “aggression” towards de facto South Ossetia, saying that the responsibility for the war’s consequences lies with Georgia. The Russian Foreign Minister also commented on Georgia’s wish to add US observers to the EUMM in Georgia. Lavrov said the initiative is an attempt to “to provoke confrontation between Russia and the US.” “This plan is absolutely clear and we have told this to our American colleagues. The plan is to drag US observers into Georgia and place them face to face with Russian observers, while after this the masters of provocations, of which Saakashvili has a lot, will try to do their usual job,” Lavrov told the Vesti TV channel.

Georgia says it has no intention of starting a war with Russia. Speaking to French TV company France 24, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Tbilisi has “neither the will nor the capacities to start war with Russia.” “With these more frequent attacks in the Tskhinvali region, Russia wants to check the reaction of the West,” Saakashvili noted. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia released a special statement on August 4 which said that Georgia “reiterates that the full responsibility for such actions rests with Russia.” The statement posted on MFA website reads that “despite the Georgian side’s repeated statements on the growing number of provocations and increased military rhetoric by Russia and the Tskhinvali proxy regime in connection with the forthcoming anniversary of Russia’s aggression against Georgia, and though the international community, including the EU monitoring mission, EU Presidency and France has called on the sides to refrain from provocations, the Russian occupiers and the proxy regimes continue to pursue their efforts to further enhance the tension.”

The US administration has expressed its concern about the situation in Georgia’s breakaway regions. US Deputy Secretary of State Philip Gordon has assessed the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statements as “provocative”. Gordon said the EU monitors have not confirmed the shooting from Georgian territory towards the de facto South Ossetian Republic claimed by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Gordon said several thousand Russian soldiers are still in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He noted that the number of Russian soldiers there has significantly increased compared to the pre-war period in 2008.

Meanwhile the de facto leader of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity, has ordered the closure of the administrative border with Georgia. Kokoity has explained this decision by the threat of swine flu and “possible provocations from the Georgian side.”

Georgian MPs and analysts suggest no large-scale military activities are expected from Russia. The Vice Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, MP Paata Davitaia, has said that Russian provocations are just PR, aimed at creating an illusion that Georgia is getting ready for a revenge attack on the anniversary of the August war. He said the possibility of another Russian military aggression against Georgia has been excluded, but Russian provocations will reach their peak on the anniversary of the Russian-Georgian conflict.

Political commentator Soso Tsintsadze has commented on Kokoity’s order to close the administrative border. The analyst said the separatist leader’s “dream” is to start a new war. According to Tsintsadze Kokoity’s decision is a “caricature move”, because the administrative border has actually been closed for a long time.