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Russia and Georgia on War Footing PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Thursday, 05 August 2004 02:44
Russia and Georgia were o­n a war footing Wednesday after Moscow hinted it could resort to military action in response to a Tbilisi threat to open fire o­n vessels that "illegally" entered the waters of its breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Russia and Georgia o­n War Footing

Posted by: Mike_Wallace o­n https://www.pej.org Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:44 AM

Russia and Georgia o­n war footing over breakaway Abkhazia

MOSCOW (AFP) Aug 04, 2004

The Russian defense minister said Georgia's leaders were turning into "pirates" while the country's most popular Internet news site Gazeta.ru screamed in a headline that "Russian tourists will be shot" in Georgia.

Russian ships frequently take tourists to the separatist region o­n the Black Sea coast in northwestern Georgia that was a top spot for summer vacations in the Soviet era.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has vowed to reunify his fractured republic since toppling the old administration in a peaceful "rose revolution" last year.

And he has since taken a stern view of Russia's involvement in his tiny and impoverished former Soviet republic that will soon be home to a key pipeline from the Caspian Sea backed by the United States.

"I gave such an order a few months ago and I am repeating it today: all the ships will be sunk, we will fire o­n them... as happened in the waters of Abkhazia a few days ago," Saakashvili said Tuesday before leaving for a private visit to the United States.

Georgian coast guards last Friday opened fire o­n a Turkish ship that entered the Black Sea waters of Abkhazia.

Abkhazia's defense chief Vyacheslav Eshba said he would do "everything I can to make sure that the ships arrive safely. If need be, we will use our army for this," ITAR-TASS reported.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said "these comments are starting to resemble those made by pirates and in no way correspond to international norms."

The foreign ministry in Moscow described Saakashvili's comments as "unprecedented" and warning of a looming war.

"These sort of comments are starting to show that Tbilisi is starting to lose contact with the reality in which the modern world lives," a ministry statement said.

But Saakashvili seemed unbowed and took another stab at Moscow by saying that his order "affects all the so-called Russian tourists."

The conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia, which lies between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea, began with the collapse of the Soviet Union and sparked an exodus of 250,000 Georgians from the region.

A bitter war ended in August 1993 with the region of Abkhazia gaining de facto independence from the former Soviet republic.

The two sides have been holding talks with the help of a special United Nations mission and Russia, which maintains a peacekeeping force in the region.

Relations between Tbilisi and Moscow seemed to deteriorate steadily through Wednesday as a top Russian lawmaker came under fire while visiting another separatist pro-Moscow region -- South Ossetia.

Andrei Kokoshin -- who o­nce served as Russia's security council chief and heads a parliamentary committee o­n relations with former Soviet republic -- said he was in the region o­n a bridge-building mission and came under fire from Georgian troops.

His dominant United Russia party said it may retaliate by adopting a resolution supporting South Ossetia's bid to become a part of Russia.

During his US stay, which ends August 8, Saakashvili is scheduled to meet with several US officials including US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Russia and Georgia o­n war footing over breakaway Abkhazia

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 August 2004 02:44

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