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Russia: Duma Endorses Ultimatum On Georgia

Moscow, 13 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The Russian State Duma voted today to endorse President Vladimir Putin's ultimatum to Georgia and recommend that economic aid to the South Caucasus country be suspended. On Wednesday, Putin said Russia will take "adequate measures" to defend itself if Georgia does not flush out rebels Moscow believes are hiding in Georgia's lawless Pankisi Gorge. Moscow claims the rebels use the gorge as a base to launch raids in neighboring Chechnya.

A nonbinding Duma resolution, passed by a vote of 350 to 21 with two abstentions, says that Tbilisi continues to ignore Moscow's calls to take action against "terrorist groups." It also says Putin "has the right to take the most resolute steps to ensure the security of the Russian Federation and prevent incursions of armed groups of international terrorists from Georgian territory."

The Duma also says Russia should reconsider economic aid to Georgia, "including the supply of energy sources at favorable rates."

Tbilisi, which says Moscow's claims are unfounded, today invited observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, and Russian delegates to come to Georgia to assess the situation along the Chechen border.

The OSCE today urged Russia and Georgia to prevent escalation in tension over the alleged presence of armed Chechen separatists in Georgia.

The OSCE chairman, Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz, said the organization has initiated urgent consultations with the two countries to help defuse the tension.

OSCE observers have been deployed along the Georgian-Chechen border since 1999 and recently reported violations of Georgia's airspace by suspected Russian war planes.