Press-releases of the Embassy

August 25, 2008

On the situation in South Ossetia (press review)

1. Russia ready to ditch NATO - Medvedev

President Medvedev says Russia is ready to break off relations with NATO if necessary. His comments came after a meeting with Russia's ambassador to the alliance, Dmitry Rogozin. NATO has been highly critical of Russias handling of the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia.

Speaking after a meeting with Rogozin in Sochi, Medvedev said there could be no confusion about NATOs plans. He also said that Russia could see through the illusion of partnership.

When they are building up their military forces, surrounding us with bases and drawing into the alliance more and more countries - convincing us that everything is ok... Of course we don't like it, President Medvedev said on Monday.

NATO vessels are in the Black Sea to provide humanitarian aid for Georgia and give a helping hand. Russian views their presence with suspicion.

NATO had warned that relations with Russia would not improve until it pulled all its troops out of Georgia.

The future of joint Russia-NATO programmes remains unclear. One of them involves the delivery of humanitarian aid through Russia to Afghanistan.

NATO is more interested in this partnership then we are. Even if it will mean the end of our cooperation, its nothing to us,
Medvedev said.

At the last meeting of NATO foreign ministers, the alliance was looking for ways to punish Russia.

In another development, Washington and Warsaw sealed a deal on the deployment of interceptors in Poland as a part of the US missile defense project. The talks ended years of negotiations, with Washington agreeing to all Polands conditions.

Western countries could bar Russias entry to the World Trade Organisation. Russia has been seeking to join the WTO for more than 10 years, but its not desperate for entry and is prepared to halt talks.

Our economy, I mean some of its industries, including agriculture, bears a rather heavy load. It turns out we neither see nor feel any pluses from this membership of the WTO, if there are any at all, but we do bear a load, Prime Minister Putin said.

Beginning of Meeting with Russian Permanent Envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Dmitry Rogozin:

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Our relations with NATO have not been easy since the armed conflict in South Ossetia and the aggression carried out by Georgia. Relations have taken a sharp turn for the worse, and we are not to blame. I would like to hear your views on how the situation is likely to develop.

Russian Permanent Envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) DMITRY ROGOZIN: I can report to you on the situation with Russias cooperation with the NATO member countries, and also on our proposals for changing the extent, quality and timetable of this cooperation in connection with the position NATO took during the Georgian aggression against South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In our view, NATO has applied a policy of double standards to Russias actions and has in a sense departed from the spirit of the partnership that had existed in our relations up till then. I am ready to make specific proposals right away.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: We worked consistently to develop our relations with NATO for quite a long time. We would like to have a full-fledged partnership. What we do not want is an illusion of partnership, when NATO surrounds us with its bases and takes in more and more countries, while telling us, dont worry, everything is fine. Of course we do not like this. All the more so when faced with such restrictive acts as those that have taken place recently. We did not provoke them and did not seek them. But speaking seriously, the NATO member countries have greater interest in this cooperation than does the Russian Federation. If they sever these ties of cooperation, essentially it would have no real effect on us. We are ready to look at any solution, up to and including breaking off relations in full, though this would of course be the most difficult development of events. I simply hope that our partners will reflect on this.

2. Russian military concerned by larger NATO presence in Black Sea

Russia has to be concerned that NATO is continuing to get a stronger foothold in the Black Sea, the deputy chief of General Staff said Monday.

"NATO's naval deployments in the Black Sea, where nine foreign vessels have already been sent, cannot but provoke concern," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said.

According to a Russian military intelligence source, the NATO warships that have entered the Black Sea carry over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles between them.

NATO has so far deployed the USS McFaul and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, the Polish frigate General Pulaski, the German frigate FGS Lubeck, and the Spanish navy ship Admiral Juan de Borbon.

"NATO is actually deploying a surface strike group in the Black Sea," the unidentified source said Monday.

The McFaul unloaded 55 tons of humanitarian aid in the Georgian port of Batumi on Sunday, with two more U.S. Navy ships due in port later this week. The Polish, Spanish and German ships also entered the Black Sea on Friday.

Nogovitsyn said Russian peacekeepers, who continue to be deployed in Georgia after the country's war with breakaway South Ossetia, would not carry out checks of foreign ships entering Georgian Black Sea ports.

But he said peacekeepers at a checkpoint near the Poti port would conduct patrols in the area. "Patrols are a civilized form of control," he said.

The senior military official put it more colorfully on Saturday: "Poti is outside of the security zone, but that does not mean we will sit behind a fence watching them riding around in Hummers."

Nogovitsyn promised that Russia would not exceed the numbers defined by international agreements, including a 1992 pact, when sending peacekeepers to South Ossetia.

But he warned that Georgia was planning to deploy troops in the towns of Gori and Senaki.

"The Georgian Armed Forces command is continuing to conduct acts aimed at restoring the combat readiness of its army directed at South Ossetia," he said. "Communication systems are being restored, units are planned for deployment in the military towns of Gori and Senaki."

Georgia is also planning acts of sabotage on infrastructure and transportation facilities, Nogovitsyn said.

"Georgian reconnaissance and sabotage groups are reinvigorating their efforts... and are preparing military actions along the routes of Russian armored columns, as well as acts of sabotage on transportation infrastructure," he said.

3. Georgia plans to attack Abkhazia Russia

Russia has information that Georgia is planning a military attack on Abkhazia to seize the capital Sukhumi, the Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, told a media briefing in Moscow on Monday. He said that the military potential of Georgia was being restored for a repeated act of aggression.

"We have received serious intelligence information, and we shall discuss in detail the Georgian-Abkhazian direction on Tuesday," he said.

"The information is serious. If many media outlets still see Russia as the aggressor in the South Ossetian direction, the plan for seizing Sukhumi is so clear that we shall be able to prove that Georgia was the aggressor in the second direction as well,"
he added.

Nogovitsyn said that according to the South Ossetian parliament, Georgias attack on South Ossetia claimed the lives of 2,100 civilians.

Russia is ready to provide substantial evidence in international courts that it was Georgia that initiated the aggression in the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict zone, said Nogovitsyn.

He also added that the situation around Abkhazia and South Ossetia "is changing rather quickly".

He announced the Russian side is performing peacekeeping functions near the port of Poti in strict compliance with the six principles agreed by the Russian and French presidents, Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy.

He said Russia will not exceed the number of its peacekeepers in South Ossetia defined by international agreements, adding its a matter of principle for Russia.

At the same time Russia will not allow air reconnaissance activities in the area of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers in the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict zone, Nogovitsyn said - "I am just giving warning that we will not allow Georgia to conduct reconnaissance work with impunity. We reserve the right to respond appropriately."

Nogovitsyn said that NATO member countries are continuing to build up a naval group in the Black Sea, and currently there are nine vessels belonging to the alliance, including two from the U.S., one from Spain, Germany and Poland each, and four from Turkey.

"These actions are increasing the degree of tension in the region," stressed Nogovitsyn.

4. The story of a short but bloody war

The conflict in the region has forced South Ossetia and Abkhazia to once again call on the world to officially recognise their separation from Tbilisi.

Late in the evening of August 7, just before midnight, Georgian artillery struck the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. It came just hours after the Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili, had announced a ceasefire after several days of skirmishing between South Ossetian and Georgian troops.

However. the violence did not end there as Georgian shells and later fighter jets hit targets and buildings in Tskhinvali. By the next morning, Tbilisi's military operation, which it had dubbed called "Clean Field" was deploying infantry units and tanks.

Russia called an extra session of the UN Security Council in a bid to end the Georgian aggression. Georgia insisted they were trying to restore constitutional order but a late meeting in New York failed to bring any results.

Georgian troops entered Tskhinvali and attacked checkpoints manned by Russian peacekeepers.

By the evening of Friday, August 8, the capital of the breakaway republic was under the control of the Georgian forces. Civilians, along with journalists and peacekeepers, were taking shelter in basements.

Taking into account that many in South Ossetia had Russian passports, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered elements of the 58th Army into the conflict zone. As Russian tanks approached the devastated city, Mikhail Saakashvili claimed that Russia had invaded Georgia.

The West cautiously raised concerns. Initial reports said hundreds had been killed in attacks on South Ossetia.

On the second day of war, the shelling of Tskhinvali and the nearby villages continued.

As Russian forces entered South Ossetia, heavy fighting broke out on the streets, leading to thousands of people trying to flee the region.

Russian fighter jets started to strike military targets on Georgian territory, while Tbilisi claimed that Russian planes were targeting civilian buildings with reports that dozens had been killed in a bomb attack on the city of Gori, 60 km north of the capital.

By the middle of the third day, Georgian units had almost been pushed out of Tskhinvali.

Another meeting of the UN Security Council again resulted in no decision, but almost all envoys came forward to strongly criticise Russia, not Georgia, for its military actions.

The fourth day started with Tbilisi announcing another ceasefire, but during the next two days Georgian forces did not stop fighting and continued to shell South Ossetia.

By this time more than 35,000 people had fled to Russia's republic of North Ossetia.

On the fifth day Dmitry Medvedev and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy drew up a six-point plant aimed at ending the hostilities. It was later signed by President Mikhail Saakashvili in Tbilisi.

Russian military units remained in several Georgian settlements, including Gori, to prevent an escalation of violence.

August 13 was declared a day of mourning across Russia in memory of those who had fallen victim to Georgian aggression.

Russia subsequently started to withdraw its forces from Georgian territory.

According to: Official web-site of the President of the Russian Federation, RIA Novosti News Agency, Russia Today TV Channel