torsdag 14 augusti 2008

Ryssland ignorerar USA och ockuperar tre georgiska städer

Den vapenvila som pålysts verkar inte ha efterlevts från ryskt håll. Nu ockuperar ryska trupper tre georgiska städer - dvs städer helt inom Georgiens gränsområde, trots varningar från USA att inte kränka Georgiens territoriella integritet:

Russia occupies Georgia towns, tension with Ukraine
By Matt Robinson Matt Robinson 48 mins ago

GORI, Georgia (Reuters) – Russian troops and armor moved in or around at least three Georgian towns on Thursday, ignoring demands by Washington that Moscow respect Georgia's territorial integrity.

Reuters witnesses saw Russian troops in the key central Georgian town of Gori and outside the western town of Zugdidi. Residents in the Black Sea port of Poti saw a Russian incursion.

In Moscow, the Russian General Staff said it was legitimate for "Russian peacekeepers" to be in Poti and for what it termed "reconnaissance parties" to be in Gori, two days after Russia signed up to a French-led peace plan to stop the fighting.

Russian armed forces have occupied parts of Georgia since repelling a Georgian attack last week on the tiny pro-Russian separatist territory of South Ossetia. The territory broke away from Georgia in the 1990s.

The conflict has spooked oil markets, reliant on pipelines through the Caucasus for Caspian oil, and alarmed the West, which fears it could spiral out of control.

Sharpening the confrontation with the United States over the future of Georgia, Medvedev received in the Kremlin on Thursday the leaders of the two separatist regions at the heart of the week-old conflict and promised them Moscow's backing.

"You defended your land and justice was on your side," a stern-looking Medvedev said in televised remarks at the meeting. "That is why you won, with the assistance of Russian peacekeepers...I think that is an appropriate outcome."

But in Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Moscow's behavior had profound implications for security relations and could adversely affect the relationship with Washington for years to come.

Widening the diplomatic fallout, Moscow clashed with Georgia's ally Ukraine over the movements of the Russian Black Sea fleet, which is based in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol. Both Ukraine and Georgia are in line to become NATO members at some point in the future, to Russia's displeasure.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko signed a decree ordering Russian warships to obtain permission before entering or leaving base. The move angered Russian leaders, who regard Ukraine as a former Soviet satellite which should obey orders.

"We have one general commander for the Black Sea fleet. It is the president of Russia. And all commands from outside are illegitimate to us," Russian Colonel-General Anatoly Nagovitsyn told a news conference in Moscow.

Ukrainian debt prices fell on the growing tension.

In Georgia, U.S. military planes airlifted aid in a show of Washington's support for its embattled ally. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has criticized the United States for failing to act strongly enough to help his country against Russia.

Russia insisted its troop movements within Georgia proper on Thursday did not violate the peace agreement, which contains a clause allowing Moscow's forces "to implement additional security measures" while awaiting international monitors.

Russian commanders said they were handing over control of Gori, 60 km (35 miles) east of the capital Tbilisi and close to Georgia's main east-west highway. Russia had earlier denied its troops were in the town.

Flanked by plainclothes guards and wearing body armor, Georgia's Security Council Secretary Kakha Lomaia met a Russian commander outside the town to discuss arrangements.

Russian tanks blocked the roads into Gori, famous as the birthplace of Josef Stalin. Soldiers stood watching and smoking cigarettes. But a Georgian official later said it appeared the Russian withdrawal had been delayed.


In the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti, a small oil terminal, witnesses said Russian tanks had rolled in on Thursday morning, accompanying trucks carrying troops to the port area.

"Just a few minutes ago, they (Russians) entered Poti in tanks," shipping agent Nikoloz Gogoli told Reuters by telephone.

In the western Georgian town of Zugdidi, not far from the second separatist region of Abkhazia, a Reuters photographer saw a column of more than 100 Russian military vehicles, including 40 armored vehicles, massed two km (1.5 miles) from the town centre. Their purpose was unclear.

Stepping up diplomatic efforts to end the week-old conflict, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to meet the architect of the European Union-sponsored ceasefire, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, before heading to Tbilisi.

Sarkozy negotiated a six-point ceasefire which appears to have halted most of the combat, although there were reports from the conflict zone of marauding Ossetian militias burning and looting Georgian villages to exact revenge.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow's forces "have received strict orders from the supreme commander-in-chief to apply wartime laws to looters." South Ossetian authorities said they had shot dead two looters on Wednesday.


U.S. President George Bush demanded on Wednesday that Moscow end the crisis, abide by the agreed ceasefire and withdraw its troops from Georgia.

"The United States of America stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia. We insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected," Bush said.

But the Russian General Staff's Nogovitsyn criticized the U.S. airlift to Georgia announced by Bush.

"We have information that American military-transport aviation say they are delivering a certain humanitarian cargo to Tbilisi airport, though they said we had bombed the airport two days ago," he said.

"Let's ask them: Will they invite you (the media) to check whether it is humanitarian or not?... What is in it (the cargo) in reality?...It is of major concern to Russians."

Two U.S. C-17 military aircraft carrying supplies had already arrived in Georgia.

Speaking in Tbilisi on Wednesday, Saakashvili said Bush's pledge meant Georgian ports and airports would be taken under U.S. military control -- a claim swiftly denied by the Pentagon.

Russia says 1,600 civilians died when Georgia attacked South Ossetia. The figure has not been independently verified and Human Rights Watch researchers have cast doubt on it.

Moscow's General Staff said on Wednesday it had lost 74 soldiers in the fighting, with 171 wounded and 19 missing. At least four warplanes have been shot down. It said on Thursday there had been no new deaths.

Tbilisi puts deaths on its side at over 175, with hundreds injured. That figure does not include South Ossetia.

(Additional reporting by Melissa Akin, Dmitry Zhdannikov, Guy Faulconbridge and Simon Shuster in Moscow, James Kilner and Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Sue Pleming and Richard Cowan in Washington, writing by Michael Stott, editing by Janet McBride) 2008-08-14

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