US concerned over Russia, Georgia tension


Senior Member
Jun 29, 2009
US concerned over Russia, Georgia tension

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden expressed concerns about fresh tensions between Russia and Georgia in telephone calls with the leaders of the rival ex-Soviet states.

The White House said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called Obama to wish him a happy 48th birthday, and that the leaders discussed the need to ease rattled nerves in the region, a year on from a Russia-Georgia war.

Biden called Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and expressed concern over the situation, as Georgia warned of the risk of a new war with Russia and Moscow raised the battle-readiness of its forces, ahead of the anniversary of their conflict over rebel South Ossetia.

"Russian President Medvedev called President Obama today to wish him happy birthday," the White House said in a press statement.

"During the call, the presidents discussed the situation in Georgia and the need to decrease tensions in the region.

"President Obama reiterated the importance of working through established crisis management mechanisms such as the Joint Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism and underscored the need for international monitors."

Later, the White House said Biden called Saakashvili to "discuss the current situation in Georgia."

"Vice President Biden expressed concern about the recent escalation in tensions and emphasized that all parties should avoid destabilizing actions.

"He also underscored the importance of having an objective international monitoring mission with access to both sides of the boundary line.

"Vice President Biden reiterated US support for Georgia's democracy."

Saakashvili had earlier called on the United States and the European Union to send a "clear message" to Moscow to help avert a new war, as both sides exchanged accusations of attacks and "provocations" in the region.

The Russian foreign ministry meanwhile said its forces had heightened their state of battle-readiness in South Ossetia.

"The situation is very worrying and the Georgian provocations ahead of the anniversary of last year's war are not halting," foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in a statement.

Obama's administration is walking a tightrope between its desire to reset ties with Moscow and showing support for its ally Georgia, as tensions rise again between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Russia smashed a Georgian military offensive to recapture South Ossetia in a brief war in August last year, sending relations between Moscow and Washington during the final months of George W. Bush's administration to post-Cold War lows.

Biden risked irking Russia last month when he said in a speech in the ex-Soviet republic that Obama backed Georgia's aspiration to join NATO.

He also reiterated long-standing US policy on Georgia's territorial integrity, saying Washington sought a "free, secure, democratic, united Georgia."

Moscow has recognized two rebel regions of Georgia -- Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- as independent states, prompting condemnation from around the world.

The war erupted last year when an attempt by Georgian troops to retake South Ossetia was rebuffed by Russia. Moscow then sent troops and tanks deep into Georgian territory.

After the war, Russian forces mostly withdrew into South Ossetia and Abkhazia but Moscow then infuriated the West with the independence move.

The White House also said that Obama and Medvedev used Tuesday's conversation to discuss the need to "move forward quickly" on agreements reached at their summit last month in Moscow.

"In particular, the presidents reaffirmed their commitment to complete negotiations on a follow-on agreement to START by December of this year."

Obama and Medvedev signed a declaration in Moscow pledging to reach a new nuclear arms pact to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.


Senior Member
Jun 29, 2009
Russian troops on high readiness in South Ossetia

MOSCOW — Russian troops in the breakaway province of South Ossetia have been put on increased combat readiness amid rising tensions on the de facto border with Georgia, according to officials.

Andrei Nesterenko, the spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday the move was a response to Georgian "provocations" and meant to prevent more violence.

"The most important thing now is to prevent escalation and not to allow skirmishes to grow into bigger clashes," Nesterenko said.

The situation near South Ossetia has become increasingly tense as the first anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war approaches Friday, with Georgia and Russia blaming each other for provocations and intentions to resume fighting.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called U.S. President Barack Obama late Tuesday "to wish him happy birthday," and during the conversation the two leaders "discussed the situation in Georgia and the need to decrease tensions in the region," the White House said in a statement.

Obama "reiterated the importance of working through established crisis management mechanisms such as the Joint Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism and underscored the need for international monitors," the statement said.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Obama and Medvedev discussed the "lessons of last year's Georgian crisis." There was no elaboration.

Obama said during a recent summit in Moscow that Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected.

The August 2008 conflict erupted after escalating exchanges of fire between Georgia and Moscow-backed South Ossetian forces.

South Ossetia's separatists and Georgian authorities have accused each other of firing guns and mortar rounds on several occasions over the past few days.

The separatist leader, Eduard Kokoity, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that "there is a danger that August 2008 will be repeated."

"Today, Georgia's military is more combat-ready and has a stronger potential" than during the run-up to last year's conflict, Kokoity said.

In the latest incident, Monday night, South Ossetia's separatist authorities said three mortar rounds were fired into South Ossetia from Georgian-controlled territory. Georgian authorities denied the claim and accused separatists of firing rocket-propelled grenades at a Georgian checkpoint near South Ossetia. No one was hurt.

The European Union said it was concerned about mutual accusations of shelling and other incidents, but added that EU monitors in Georgia had seen no evidence confirming them so far.

"The EU urges all sides to refrain from any statement or action that may lead to increased tensions at this particularly sensitive time," the international organization said in a statement late Monday.

EU monitors are the only international ones remaining in Georgia, but they are blocked from traveling inside South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway region in Georgia.

An EU-brokered truce ended the five-day August war between Georgia and Russia. Russia sent in thousands of troops and tanks that routed the Georgian military and drove deep into Georgia.

Georgian authorities claimed they had to launch the artillery barrage on Tskhinvali, the provincial capital, because Russian troops had moved into South Ossetia hours earlier. Russian officials denied this, and claimed the country acted to protect its peacekeepers and civilians there.

After the war, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations and permanently deployed thousands of troops there.

The only other country to recognize the regions' independence is Nicaragua.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in an interview with France's RTL radio broadcast Tuesday that there is a risk of a new conflict because Russia was putting constant pressure on Georgia. He said Georgia would not engage in conflict with Russia but would defend itself if necessary.

Meanwhile, a senior Russian diplomat voiced concern about what he said were U.S. plans to provide military assistance to Georgia.

"Washington is playing the key role in rearming the Georgian military machine," Grigory Karasin, a deputy foreign minister, said in comments reported Tuesday by the Interfax agency. "It would be in the interests of Georgian democracy ... to refuse to arm this country at all."

South Ossetia's Kokoity echoed Karasin's sentiments, saying countries that arm Georgia "are responsible for any further (military) developments."

On Tuesday, U.S. officials said that they have not ruled out providing defensive weapon systems for Georgia despite warnings by Russia.

Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow told lawmakers at a Senate hearing that U.S. military aid to Georgia was focused on training and modernization of Georgia's military.

But he added that "other forms of assistance can take place. Nothing is off the table."

Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon said at the same hearing that there "is no arms embargo on Georgia."

The U.S. is discussing a Georgian request for $16 million in military aid this year, with most of the money intended for training and technical assistance. But Washington reacted coolly after Saakashvili told The Washington Post that Georgia was interested in acquiring heavy weapons for defensive purposes.


Senior Member
Jun 29, 2009
Georgia and an Enclave Trade Accusations

TBILISI, Georgia — An explosion in Georgia close to its border with the breakaway region of South Ossetia injured a Georgian teenager on Tuesday, and Georgian and South Ossetian officials traded accusations of cross-border shelling.

Russia on Tuesday also announced that it had put its troops in the region on heightened alert, further raising tensions three days before the anniversary of last year’s war.

It was unclear whether the explosion was a planned attack or caused by a device left over from the war last August, said Shota Utiashvili, a spokesman for Georgia’s Interior Ministry.

Georgian television stations showed images of the teenager, Ucha Giunashvili, 14, who was hospitalized after a detonator from a bomb buried in a tree exploded near the village of Plavi. The bomb remained intact.

The Georgia Interior Ministry also claims that Plavi, a Georgian village close to the border with South Ossetia, came under fire on Monday night from the direction of South Ossetia.

The ministry said in a statement that two shells, presumably fired by a grenade launcher, exploded near a police checkpoint. No casualties were reported.

South Ossetian officials denied the charges, claiming that Monday night’s shelling came from the direction of Plavi and landed in the South Ossetian village of Orteu, causing no injuries, a statement on the separatist government’s Web site said.

A spokesman for the European Union monitoring mission in the region said Tuesday that monitors found no evidence of firing on either side.

“There was no indication that Georgians have fired across the South Ossetian boundary line,” said Steve Bird, the spokesman. “But there were also no indications that mortar fire landed somewhere close to the checkpoint” on the Georgian side.

Despite an absence of independent confirmation on several recent reports of cross-border mortar fire, Russia, which last year invaded Georgian territory after Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia, has vowed to again use military force to protect the enclave. After last year’s war, Moscow declared South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia, independent.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced that Russian troops stationed in South Ossetia were on heightened alert.

“Currently, it is most important to prohibit escalation and stop exchanges of fire from developing into a larger-scale confrontation,” Andrei A. Nesterenko, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a statement. “For this we are doing, and will do, everything possible.”


Senior Member
Jun 29, 2009
Russia praises EU role in Georgia

Russia says EU monitors have helped stabilise the situation in Georgia since last year's war, but has rejected any similar role for the US.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the peace plan brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy "continues to be a most serious stabilising factor".

He accused Georgia of trying to "drag the Americans into Georgia" and put them up against the Russian military.

Russian troops ousted Georgian forces from South Ossetia nearly a year ago.

Mr Sarkozy, acting on behalf of the EU, brokered a ceasefire after five days of fighting in and around the breakaway territory, where separatists are backed by Russian troops.

Russia has beefed up its military presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia - another breakaway region in Georgia - and has recognised both territories as independent.

Click here for a map of the region

The Georgia-South Ossetia boundary remains tense, with both sides accusing each other of cross-border shooting. Russia has heightened its forces' state of alert in South Ossetia.

The Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Giga Bokeria, said Russia was escalating the situation by its actions and rhetoric.

Russia criticises Biden

The 225 EU monitors are spending more time keeping watch along the boundary, but so far have been unable to find evidence for any of the claims of violations, the BBC's Tom Esslemont reports.

Speaking in a Russian television interview on Wednesday, Mr Lavrov said the Georgia conflict had had "no effect whatsoever" on the decisions reached during US President Barack Obama's visit to Moscow last month.

He said the position of Russia's Western partners towards Georgia had changed and "there are no longer emotional outbursts, they are just going through the motions, I would say".

But he criticised a recent interview that US Vice President Joe Biden gave to the Wall Street Journal, in which he described Russia as a weakened nation because of the economic crisis.

Mr Lavrov said that was "reminiscent of speeches by leading officials in the George Bush administration".

Mr Biden voiced support for Georgia on a recent visit to Tbilisi, but he resisted Georgian pressure to send US monitors to the region.

The EU has urged Russia and Georgia to show restraint as the anniversary of the war, on 7 August, approaches.

The EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) is the only organisation now monitoring the boundary line.

It has called for unrestricted access on both sides of the boundary. But Russian and Ossetian forces have not allowed EU personnel into South Ossetia to check the allegations of Georgian attacks.


Tihar Jail
Jun 16, 2009
Russia accuses US of rearming Georgia

Updated on Wednesday, August 05, 2009, 23:00 IST

Moscow: Russia on Wednesday accused the United States of quietly rearming Georgia a year after Russian forces crushed the ex-Soviet state's US-backed military and warned it would respond accordingly.

"Delivery of weapons from the United States is continuing," Deputy Foreign Minister Grigori Karasin told journalists at a briefing ahead of the first anniversary of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.

"This is worrisome and will force us to take corresponding measures," Karasin said. He did not elaborate on what types of weapons were involved or on how Russia would respond.

His comments however marked one of Moscow's most pointed accusations that the United States, which recently reaffirmed a strategic commitment to Georgia, was stoking tensions in the volatile Caucasus region.

On a visit to Tbilisi on July 23, US Vice President Joe Biden admitted that Washington, which equipped and trained Georgian forces prior to the war last August, was working on "maintaining" the Georgian military.

He said however that the effort was confined to "planning, training, organization" -- and not the supply of weapons.

The following day, Russia's ambassador to NATO said Moscow would impose sanctions on US or any other foreign firms that sold arms to Georgia.

Russia accuses US of rearming Georgia

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