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Tbilisi against Russian law on use of Army abroad

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, September 10
The Russian Duma held its first hearing of the amendments to the defence law considering the use of the Russian Army abroad on September 9.

The draft amendments were proposed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on August 10 and outline the terms under which Russia may use its military forces for operations outside the country’s borders. These include the repulsion of an attack on Russian forces, the prevention or repulsion of aggression against a third state, the defence of Russian citizens and the struggle against piracy.

The Kremlin doesn’t hide the fact that this law has been created in response to the “new realties” created in August 2008, when the Russian Army invaded parts of Georgia. “It’s natural that the idea of creating this law has become more relevant since the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict,” stated Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdukov, speaking to Russian journalists on Tuesday. He added that the law is directed “towards the creation of a legal mechanism which will allow the Commander-in-Chief to use Russian military units operationally outside the territory of the Russian Federation to protect the interests of Russia and its citizens.”

Tbilisi has reacted sharply, calling this draft law “an attempt to legalise Russia’s actions against Georgia” last year. “This draft law clearly means that Russia is trying to justify its actions last year in the international arena but is not able to do that under international law,” stated Deputy Head of the Georgian Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Relations Irakli Kavtaradze.

He added that last year’s Russian invasion of Georgia was even against the laws of Russia itself. “It doesn’t matter how many laws the Duma adopts, this doesn’t change the global picture that Russia is politically and strategically an aggressive state. Its actions are a violation of international law,” stated Davit Darchiashvili, who heads Parliament’s Committee on European Integration.

Russian military analyst and Vice-President of Moscow’s Academy of Geopolitical Issues Vladimir Anokhin directly connects the new law to Russia’s actions on Georgian territory. “Every day we hear about the piracy of Georgia on the Abkhazian coast. Russia has a border defence agreement with this republic and it should be complied with. Things are also not calm on the Georgian-South Ossetian borders. However South Ossetia and Abkhazia are not Russian territories and this means that there should be a law to define the actions of [Russian] military forces abroad,” Anokhin said in an interview with Russian media on September 9.

Russia has already announced its position on the actions of the Georgian coast guard, which is detaining cargo vessels en route to the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia under the law on the occupied territories which prohibits any kind of the economic activities in the Georgian breakaway regions without permission from the central Government. Further seizure of cargo ships en route to Abkhazia may cause “serious armed incidents,” Andrei Nesterenko, a spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry said on September 3. “Besides the fact that such actions violate international maritime navigation rules and are an attempt to impose a sea blockade on the Abkhazian coast, they aggravate the military-political situation in the region and may lead to serious armed incidents,” Nesterenko said in remarks published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.

Georgian military analyst Irakli Aladashvili, Editor-in-Chief of Georgia’s Arsenali military magazine, believes that the new draft law will create a dangerous situation in the Black Sea. “Of course it doesn’t have any real meaning, as we all saw how Russia attacked Georgia in 2008 and called it a “peacekeeping operation”. But now it’s quite possible for Russia to utilize its military fleet to attack Georgian coast guards when they are applying Georgian laws. This can’t be called a struggle against piracy, because the Georgian coast guard operates according to the laws of Georgia and international regulations,” the analyst told The Messenger on September 9. Aladashvili added that the military abilities of the Russian fleet and Georgian coast guard are “not comparable.”