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Diplomatic Standoff Over Georgia Heads To Kyiv, Dushanbe

  • RFE/RL

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks to the Al-Jazeera television channel at his summer residence in Sochi as part of his media blitz.

The diplomatic standoff over Moscow's conflict with Tbilisi looks set to move to two other capitals, amid Western condemnation of Russia's recognition of Georgia's two rebel regions.

Britain's foreign secretary is visiting the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to try and build a coalition to counter what he's called Russia's aggression in Georgia.

Speaking to a group of students in Kyiv, David Miliband said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had a "big responsibility" not to start a new Cold War.

Miliband also said Western countries "need to raise the costs to Russia for disregarding its responsibility."

Britain has been one of the most vocal critics of Russia since Moscow began its incursion into Georgia earlier this month.

After Moscow recognized Georgia's two breakaway regions on August 26, Miliband led Western rejection of the move, calling it "unjustifiable and unacceptable."

But the British foreign secretary toned down comments he made earlier on August 27 that suggested creating a "coalition against Russian aggression," saying he was referring to the chorus of voices that condemned Russia's recognition of the two regions' independence.

Miliband said Moscow had not reconciled itself to the "new map of this new region" and that it must face "costs."

But he added that isolating Russia would be counterproductive and not feasible due to its integration in the world economy. And he urged Ukraine "not to provide any pretext" for Russia to take action against it.

Threatens Security

Miliband is to meet Ukraine's leadership, notably President Viktor Yushchenko, who has branded Russia's move as unacceptable and one that threatened security in the former Soviet Union.

Ukraine, like Georgia, has angered Russia with its NATO aspirations.

Former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko says the Georgian situation also carries risks for Ukraine, where many fear Crimea, with its ethnic Russian majority, could be the next flashpoint.

"Absolutely, there are always risks as the conflict is very close to Ukraine, and we have to show adequate vigilance in this regard and preclude any possible provocative actions as regards Ukraine," Zlenko tells RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service.

"I won't draw parallels here, as these are absolutely different things. Ukraine is an independent, free, peace-loving country which will never resort to any aggressive means. Crimea is an integral part of an independent Ukraine."

Russia, meanwhile, is looking to China to bolster support in the stand-off.

Russian President Medvedev met his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, on the eve of a regional security summit that China says could raise the issue of South Ossetia.

Until now, Beijing has avoided strong comment on the conflict. But it has now expressed "concern" over Russia's actions.

Western powers have almost unanimously condemned Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent countries, while Georgia announced that it has recalled all but two of its diplomats from Moscow in response.

U.S. President George W. Bush called on Moscow to reconsider what he called its "irresponsible decision." U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have both condemned Russia's decision.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled out the Russian move being accepted by the United Nations, saying the international community will continue to consider South Ossetia and Abkhazia as belonging to Georgia.

The European Union has said it will examine the "consequences" of Russia's decision and will hold an emergency summit on the issue on September 1.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Medvedev on August 27 that the presence of Russian troops in parts of Georgia is a grave violation of the cease-fire deal between the countries.

Berlin and Moscow issued separate statements after the two leaders spoke by telephone at Merkel's initiative.

The Kremlin statement said Medvedev had assured Merkel that he remained committed to the cease-fire with Georgia.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on August 27 that Russia might have its eye on other neighboring countries such as Ukraine and Moldova. Asked on Europe 1 radio whether Russia would now regularly choose to confront the West rather than cooperate with it, Kouchner said, "That is not impossible."

"I repeat that it is very dangerous, and there are other objectives that one can suppose are objectives for Russia, in particular the Crimea, Ukraine, and Moldova," said Kouchner, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency.

Media Offensive


With talk of a new Cold War brewing, Medvedev on August 26 said he was not afraid of that prospect, though he was not seeking it either.

He also went on a media offensive, giving interviews to several Western media outlets, and writing an article setting out Moscow's position in the "Financial Times" of August 27.

An armed Georgian Coast Guard officer patrols in the port of Batumi after the arrival of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter delivering humanitarian aid.
In it, he defended Moscow's decision to send in troops to Georgia and likened Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to a madman for attempting to retake South Ossetia by force.

And he said he had no other choice but to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia after Western countries earlier this year recognized Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia, despite Russia's objections.

In international relations, he wrote, "you cannot have one rule for some, and another rule for others."

So far, however, no other country has said it will follow Russia's lead and recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

On August 7, fighting broke out in South Ossetia between Georgian forces and South Ossetia fighters. Russia launched a counterattack, expelling Georgian troops from the breakaway province.

Humanitarian Aid Arrives

Meanwhile, in Georgia itself, a U.S. Coast Guard ship carrying humanitarian aid has arrived on the country's Black Sea coast, backing down from docking in a Russian-patrolled port.

The cutter "Dallas" had been due in Poti, where Russian troops are manning checkpoints since pushing into Georgia proper earlier this month. Instead, it docked 80 kilometers south in Batumi.

The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi originally said the "Dallas" would be joined in Poti by a U.S. warship, the "USS McFaul," which docked in Batumi on August 24. But the embassy said late on August 26 that the plan had changed.

"This decision was taken at the highest level of the Pentagon," a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman told Reuters.

Medvedev has accused Washington of delivering weapons to Georgia by sea, but made clear Russian ships would not obstruct the operation.

"What the Americans call humanitarian cargoes -- of course, they are bringing in weapons," he told the BBC in an interview on August 26, adding, "We're not trying to prevent it."

with agency reports
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Reaction to Russia's Recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia View

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Clashes In Georgia: Chronology

Video of the fighting in Georgia's breakaway regions, and the latest efforts to end the conflict (Reuters video). Play

For full coverage of the clashes in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Georgia proper, click here.
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