Press-releases of the Embassy

August 29, 2008

On the situation around South Ossetia and Abkhazia (press review)

1. Russia says China sympathizes with recognition of Georgia regions

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that China had expressed its understanding of Russia's decision to recognize Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia's deputy foreign minister, Alexei Borodavkin, received Chinese Ambassador Liu Guchang at the latter's request.

"The Chinese side was informed of the political and legal motives behind Russia's decision and expressed an understanding of them," the ministry said in a statement.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed resolutions officially recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign states on Tuesday, saying recognition was necessary to protect the republics from Georgian acts of aggression, following the August 8 military offensive in South Ossetia.

Russia's move sparked protests in the West, leading to the freezing of Russia's relations with NATO and consideration by EU countries of imposing sanctions against Moscow.

Internal territorial problems are not uncommon for China. There are several regions with active secessionist groups, including Tibet and Xinjiang, and the issue of Taiwan is never far from the concerns of Chinese leaders.

Taiwan split from China following the 1949 Civil War, and China considers the self-governed island to be part of its territory and has not ruled out military action to prevent the province from breaking permanently from the mainland.

Since 1971, few countries have recognized the province as a sovereign state. Currently 23 states maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan

2. Russia avoids pressuring states to recognize Abkhazia, S.Ossetia

Russia's foreign minister said on Thursday that his country has no intention of pressuring other states to follow Moscow's lead and recognize Georgia's rebel regions as independent countries.

"Unlike some of our major Western partners, we prefer every country to think for itself," he said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a resolution officially recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign states on Tuesday, saying recognition was necessary to protect the republics from Georgian acts of aggression, following the August 8 military offensive in South Ossetia.

The move has been widely condemned by Western powers, in particular Britain and the United States, which have warned Russia it faces "international isolation."

Lavrov said Moscow is aware that the United States has been sending emissaries to foreign countries to "teach them" what positions to take on the issue.

"This kind of low conduct is not in our political tradition," he said.

3. Georgia conflict may have been provoked to aid U.S. presidential candidate -Putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putinprompted an angry reaction from Washington on Thursday after suggesting the Georgia conflict may have been provoked to give an advantage to "one of" the U.S. presidential candidates.

"If my guess is right, then it raises the suspicion that someone in the US deliberately created this conflict in order to worsen the situation and create an advantage... for one of the candidates for the post of president of the United States," Putin said on CNN.

The White House dismissed the allegation as "patently false."

"To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate - it sounds not rational," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

The Democratic Party's candidate in November's presidential election is Senator Barack Obama, and the Republicans are expected to nominate Senator John McCain at their convention next week.

McCain was widely judged by the U.S. media to have come out of the Georgia conflict looking like an old hand, while Obama is seen as lacking foreign-policy experience. McCain told a campaign crowd in the state of Pennsylvania as fighting raged in Georgia that, "We are all Georgians now."

The Russian premier also told CNN that Moscow had hoped the United States would step into the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict and stop Georgia attacking South Ossetia.

"We expected the U.S. to intervene in the conflict and stop the aggressive actions of the Georgian leadership," Putin said, adding that the inability of the U.S. to stop Georgia from attacking South Ossetia had damaged bilateral relations.

Russia officially recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia on Tuesday, despite Western warnings not to do so, saying the move was needed to protect the regions following Georgia's August 8 attack on the South Ossetia.

The other seven members of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations have condemned Russia's decision to recognize the two regions, while calling on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Georgia.

The current standoff, in which ties between NATO and Russia have been frozen, has sparked media speculation that Russia could be ousted from the G8, but the joint statement from the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany and Italy avoided any hint of such a move. British Foreign Minister David Miliband stressed Wednesday that there were no such plans.

4. U.S. failure to restrain Georgia harmed Russia-U.S. relations – Putin

Russia's prime ministerblasted the United States on Thursday for its inability to keep Georgia from attacking South Ossetia, and said that this had damaged bilateral relations.

"This [inability] of course harmed our relations, first of all intergovernmental," Vladimir Putin told CNN in an interview.

Tbilisi launched a military offensive against South Ossetia on August 8, seeking to retake control of the breakaway region. At least 64 Russian peacekeepers and hundreds of South Ossetian civilians died, with thousands more forced to flee the devastated republic.

Putin said Russia had hoped the United States would step into the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict and stop Georgia attacking South Ossetia.

"We expected the U.S. to intervene in the conflict and stop the aggressive actions of the Georgian leadership," Putin told CNN.

However, Putin said, "The U.S. administration not only failed to restrain the Georgian leadership from this criminal action, but the American side in fact trained and equipped the Georgian army."

Seven of the world's leading industrialized nations have condemned Russia's decision on Tuesday to recognize Georgia's breakaway republics as independent, while calling on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Georgia.

"We, the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, condemn the action of our fellow G8 member," the group said in a joint statement.

Meanwhile, the former Russian president said Russia had no intention of turning a blind eye to the killings of its citizens for the sake of membership of the G8.

Speaking on Russia's relations with the West, Putin said that Russia would not use energy to achieve its aims, as Russia also depended on the stability of its gas supplies.

However, Putin dealt a blow to U.S. poultry exporters, announcing that 19 U.S. companies are to be banned from exporting their products to Russia as they "failed health and safety tests."

He also added that 29 other companies had been warned to "improve their standards or face the same ban."

5. Russian analyst points to link between Georgian attack and Iran

A senior Russian military analyst said on Wednesday that the U.S. and NATO by arming Tbilisi used the conflict in Georgia as a dress rehearsal for a future military operation in Iran.

Col. Gen Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Studies, told a news conference at RIA Novosti, "We are close to a serious conflict - U.S. and NATO preparations on a strategic scale are ongoing. In the operation the West conducted on Georgian soil against Russia - South Ossetians were the victims or hostages of it - we can see a rehearsal for an attack on Iran. There is a great deal of "new features" that today are being fine tuned in the theater of military operations."

He said the likelihood of a war against Iran was growing with each passing day, "As a result, the situation in the region will become destabilized," and added "causing chaos and instability" was becoming Washington's official policy line.

Ivashov said it was difficult to predict how other countries would react to a conflict with Iran, but according to him, "old Europe" would be reluctant for events to develop and to some degree would become Russia's allies.

With regard to the Georgia-South Ossetian conflict, he said that one of the principal goals of NATO's "geopolitical operation" was to neutralize Russia as a global player.

South Ossetia was attacked by Georgian forces on August 8. Hundreds of people died in the assault, and Russia subsequently launched an operation to expel Georgian forces from the republic. Moscow concluded its operation to "force Georgia to peace" on August 12.

President Dmitry Medvedev signed decrees on Tuesday recognizing Georgia's breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Western political leaders have condemned Russia's decision leading to fears of a renewed Cold War. U.S. President George Bush said in a statement on Tuesday: "Russia's action only exacerbates tensions and complicates diplomatic negotiations."

According to: Voice of Russia State Broadcasting Radio Company, Russia Today TV Channel, RIA Novosti Information Agency