Presidents Lech Kaczynski, Valdas Adamkus and Viktor Yushchenko, who are taking part in the celebrations of the 750th anniversary of the founding of the city of Lvov, have issued a statement in support of the Georgian government, calling for the current crisis over Russian espionage in Georgia to be settled in accordance with international law, gazeta.ru reports.
Via gazeta.ru (my tr.):
Georgian Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili rules out the possibility that the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgian territory will be halted. According to Okruashvili, nothing can stop this process, and the statement made by General Alexander Baranov does not correspond to reality… According to the bilateral agreement between the two countries, the last trainload of Russian military equipment must leave Georgia in 2008. “I assure you that in 2008 there will be no Russian military equipment on Georgian territory,” the minister told journalists.
Civil Georgia has a longer report here.
Via Civil Georgia:
Leaders of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Sergey Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity, participated in a roundtable discussion on “Economic Development of Southern Russia” hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on September 29.
The list of participants, which was posted on the Russian President’s official web-site, included “Eduard Kokoity, the President of South Ossetia” and “Sergey Bagapsh, the President of Abkhazia.” These two names were listed under the section “foreign guests.”
“I would like to specially salute our foreign guests. These are: Sergey Vasilevich Bagapsh – the President of Abkhazia… Eduard Jabievich Kokoity – the President of the South Ossetian Republic,” President Putin said in his opening remarks at the conference.
In addition, the Civil Georgia report notes that in his public remarks Putin made use of terms such as “joint economic complex”, that were last used during the Soviet era.
Via Civil Georgia:
Four Russian officers suspected of spying against Georgia were sentenced to two-month pre-trial custody by the court in Tbilisi on September 29.
In addition, the court has also sentenced three other Russian officers to custody in their absence. Konstantin Pichugin, who is wanted by Georgia for alleged spying, is among them. The Georgian side claims Pichugin in sheltering in the Russian Troops Headquarters in Tbilisi and demands his extradition. Russia has already ruled out possibility of extradition.
The court in Tbilisi has also sentenced ten Georgian citizens to custody, who are suspected of cooperating with the Russian military intelligence.
Lenta.ru has a report timed at 14:10:22 today. Excerpt:
The withdrawal of sub-units of the Group of Russian Troops in Transcaucasia (GRVZ) has been halted. This was announced by the commander-in-chief of the forces of the North Caucasian Military District (SKVO) General Alexander Baranov, the RIA news agency reports.
According to Baranov, all officers and ensigns have been moved to barracks, and combat training operations are being conducted only on the territory of military bases. “The primary task now is to ensure the men’s safety and to defend the honour of Russia,” the general said.
The Georgian television channel Rustavi 2 has broadcast a live interview with Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili on the crisis currently affecting Russia-Georgia relations. An excerpt, via Civil Georgia:
Q.: According to international law, should Russia inform Georgia when it plans such large-scale military exercises near the Georgian border?
A.: First I want to say that these maneuvers are over-dramatized. I want to tell you, that because of the huge international support, including among the international organizations and western media, Georgia has never been as protected as it is now in our recent history. At the same time Russia has never been so unprotected and weak as it is now, because Russia is very confused and is undertaking inappropriate and spontaneous steps. Russia [military] maneuvers are an ordinary face-saving action. Military exercises neither in North Ossetia, nor on the Black Sea pose any threat to Georgia’s security. The only thing which might happen is to continue minor provocations in the Tskhinvali Region [South Ossetia] and Abkhazia so that to redirect attention towards these regions. So I do not see any serious threat in Russia’s actions.
Russia is very confused. As you see that Russia’s reaction is changing every day and every hour. They are so confused that they have sent to Georgia aircrafts with the capacity to transport 800 passengers to evacuate just 100 persons.
I absolutely understand the reasons behind these [actions]. This is a very unusual condition for Russia. Russia always had an advantage, because it had better access to the international media, it had levers in the UN and in other international organization, it had advantage because it could manipulate inside Georgia, in Tbilisi, Tskhinvali and Abkhazia through staging provocations, but today the entire world saw that Russia is just an ordinary helpless state and the myth about its powerful intelligence and its omnipotence has been destroyed and this myth now only belongs to history. Of course for Russians it is especially painful that this blow was made by Georgia.
I do not think that Russia will refrain from any major provocations and even if it decides to undertake a step of this kind Russia itself will be harmed. I expect certain provocations mainly in Tskhinvali and Abkhazia. Our police forces are mobilized and we will not yield to these provocations.
Q.: If the court finds them [Russian spy suspects] guilty, will the Russian officers spend their term of sentence in Georgia, or they will be extradited to Russia?
A.: This is not up to the Interior Ministry to decide.
One thing is clear: they are now in the Georgian penitentiary and I am sure that the Georgian court will rule fair judgment.
I think that those foreign agents are not as alarming for us as those citizens of Georgia, who were selling Georgia in exchange of a very low payment. I think discussion and intensive work should be started in Georgia with those people who have been working with the foreign special services for many years and there are lots of people of this kind in Georgia. These people bear lion’s share of responsibility for those defeats which Georgia has suffered in past 15 years.
Ynet News reports that
The United States and Britain have objected to Russia’s draft UN Security Council statement that would rebuke Georgia’s “provocative” actions and its stationing of troops in the breakaway Abkhazia province.
According to Civil Georgia,
U.S. Department of State spokesman Sean McCormack said on September 29 Washington “is in touch” with the Russian and Georgian governments over spy row between the two countries, but “this is an issue between Russia and Georgia and they will decide what steps they want to take.”
“Whatever decisions each side may take, those will be their own decisions. We would urge just to put the events of the past couple of days in the proper context,” McCormack said at a press briefing.
When asked about the U.S. position about Russia’s stance to refer the issue to the UN Security Council, the U.S. official responded: “we think it’s an issue that is best and most properly resolved between two neighbors.”
Russia is hoping that its statement on the Georgian conflict will be accepted by the UNSC today. But the approval is being delayed – US UN ambassador John Bolton has spoken of “difficulties” with the statement, gazeta.ru reports.
Via Monsters and Critics:
Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports on the final day of talks between NATO defence chiefs in Portoroz, Slovenia, at which concern was expressed at heightened tensions between Russia and Georgia, and included a plea by NATO head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer for an increase in defence spending on the part of NATO countries:
The 26 ministers, meeting in the Slovenian coastal resort of Portoroz, also reviewed progress in plans to modernize NATO armies and the setting up of a NATO Response Force (NRF) for quick deployment on peacekeeping and counter-terror operations worldwide.
NATO’s so-called ‘transformation’ from an anti-Soviet Cold War military alliance into a modern fighting machine will top the agenda at a summit in Riga at the end of November.
The second day of talks in Portoroz, which included a meeting with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, was dominated by worsening tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi.
As NATO chief Scheffer urged both Russia and Georgia to ‘moderate and de-escalate’ tensions, Ivanov accused Tbilisi of seeking a military solution to end frozen conflicts in its breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Ivanov also said several new members of NATO were fuelling current tensions by supplying Soviet-bought arms to the Georgian government.
Long-standing strains in relations between Russia and Georgia have been further inflamed in recent days after Georgia brought espionage charges against four detained military officers from Russia.
‘The situation has deteriorated…we see it with concern,’ German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung told reporters, adding that it was important that both sides resolved their dispute in a peaceful manner.
Meanwhile, gazeta.ru reports that the Georgian embassy in Moscow has been placed under round-the-clock guard by police and OMON troops after extreme Russian nationalist demonstrators from the anti-American and anti-NATO Eurasian Youth Alliance smashed a windowpane and threw a pig’s head into the building.