Russia faces more fallout over Georgia

August 29, 2008 12:00 am

, MOSCOW, August 29 – Russia remained embroiled in a diplomatic war of words Friday after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States of provoking the conflict in Georgia.

President Dmitry Medvedev held talks with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmon in Dushanbe as he sought international support and was to visit a Russian military base in the former Soviet republic.

The United States said it was sending another warship to Georgia with humanitarian aid and was reconsidering an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia.

Putin, the powerful former Kremlin leader, said the US administration had a hand in the five-day war between Russian and Georgian forces and drew a link with the US presidential campaign.

There were Americans in the conflict zone "doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader", Putin said.

"If my guess is right, then it raises the suspicion that someone in the US specially created this conflict to worsen the situation and create an advantage in the competitive struggle for one of the candidates for the post of president of the United States," he told CNN television.

"They needed a short, victorious war," he said.

"And if it didn’t work out, they could always put the blame on us, make us look like the enemy and against the background of this surge of patriotism, once more rally the country around a particular political force," Putin said.

The White House dismissed the accusations as "patently false" and Putin’s words also fueled tensions ahead of an emergency summit Monday of the 27-nation European Union to discuss the Georgia crisis.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the EU presidency, said the EU is considering imposing sanctions.

Russia faces an avalanche of condemnation from the West over its recognition of the independence of two Georgian secessionist regions at the heart of the conflict that erupted August 7.

Moscow has angrily rejected the criticism, saying it fails to recognise that Russia used military force in response to a Georgian attack against South Ossetia, where tens of thousands of Russian citizens live.

At a regional summit in Tajikistan on Thursday, China and four ex-Soviet Central Asian states did not follow Russia’s lead and recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

The six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation said it supported Russia’s "active role" in the region, but called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and underscored the importance of "territorial integrity".

The Russian press gave divergent assessments of the position taken by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Under a headline "Partners Let Down", the Kommersant daily wrote that "in the growing standoff with the West, Russia is practically alone."

The state Rossiyskaya Gazeta said however that "In a restrained manner and without recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia, they did side with their partner."

No country has recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia but Moscow’s close ally Belarus said the issue could be taken up at a meeting between Russia and six former Soviet states next week.

Talks on resolving the Georgia conflict were deadlocked at the UN Security Council, with a sixth meeting ending Thursday without agreement as the West insisted on a resolution upholding Georgia’s territorial integrity.

Washington confirmed it was sending the USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the Sixth Fleet, to Georgia next week, joining two others that have unloaded aid, drawing fierce criticism from Moscow.

Russia has criticised the use of US warships to deliver aid and ordered its Black Sea fleet to take "precautionary measures" in response to what it has called a build-up of NATO navy vessels in the Black Sea near Georgia.

A White House spokesman said a recent nuclear cooperation accord allowing US and Russian companies to form joint ventures in the nuclear sector was "under discussion."

Georgia has called for an international investigation into the events that led to its conflict with Russia and allegations of widespread human rights abuses.

"It is time to establish the truth about the crimes committed before and during Russia’s invasion of Georgia," the foreign ministry in Tbilisi said in a statement.

Russia sent troops into South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia on August 8, one day after Georgia launched a military offensive to reclaim control of the rebel province.


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