WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush used his toughest language yet to warn Russia to reverse course in Georgia and accept international mediation to end the crisis.
"Russia's government must respect Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Bush said. "The Russian government must reverse the course it appears to be on and accept this peace agreement as a first step toward resolving this conflict."
Speaking to reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House on August 11 after meeting with his National Security Council, Bush said there appeared to be an attempt by Russia to unseat Georgia's pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili.
He said he had also seen what he called "accurate reports" that Russian forces might be planning to bomb the civilian airport near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
Such a move, he warned, would constitute "a dramatic and brutal escalation" of the conflict and betray assurances Russia had given the United States that it was only interested in restoring the situation in the disputed province of South Ossetia to the status quo before fighting began on August 6.
Bush said Russia had already crossed the line -- both literally and figuratively.
"Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state, and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century," he said.
The United States and its allies are pressing Russia to accept an immediate cease-fire with Georgia and agree to international mediation over the crisis in Georgia's separatist areas.
Bush called on Russia to "be true to its word and to act to end this crisis" but cautioned that it had already damaged its international reputation.
"Russia's actions this week have raised serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region," Bush said. "These actions have substantially damaged Russia's standing in the world. And these actions jeopardize Russia's relations with the United States and Europe."