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Medvedev Accuses West Of Provocation In Black Sea


MOSCOW -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has accused the West of acting provocatively in and around the Black Sea, where the United States is using warships to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia in the throes of its military conflict with Russia.

"I wonder how they would feel if we now dispatched humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean, suffering from a hurricane, using our navy," Medvedev said, adding that a whole U.S. fleet had been dispatched to deliver the aid.

The United States has used warships to ferry relief supplies to Georgia after the brief but intense war with Russia in early August, in part to send a signal to Moscow.

Russian forces continue to control areas of a unilaterally defined buffer zone around Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and maintain checkpoints in strategic areas.

The biggest U.S. ship yet arrived on September 5, when the "USS Mount Whitney" dropped anchor off Georgia's Russian-patrolled port of Poti.

NATO has also rejected talk of a buildup of its warships in the Black Sea, saying their recent presence in the region was part of routine exercises.

Russia has accused U.S. warships of rearming Tbilisi's defeated army, a charge dismissed as "ridiculous" by Washington.

Medvedev was speaking at a meeting of his advisory state council, which meets regularly and comprises regional governors.

Medvedev said he had summoned the state council to discuss changes in Russia's foreign and security policy after the conflict in Georgia.

"The South Ossetian conflict showed that Russia will not allow anyone to make an attempt on the lives and dignity of its citizens, its peacekeepers," he told officials gathered in the gold-and-white St Alexander Hall in the Kremlin palace.

"Russia is a state [whose interests] will now be taken into account," he added.

Medvedev had earlier set out five principles of Russia's foreign policy, including a readiness to abide by international law and a claim of special interests in specific areas around the globe.

Medvedev said Russia was disappointed with the concerted Western condemnation of its operation in South Ossetia.

"We haven't heard words of support from those who, in similar situations, spoke broadly of freedom of choice, national dignity and a right to use force to punish an aggressor."

Medvedev did not go into detail, but was clearly referring to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and to Western support for the self-proclaimed independence of Serbia's breakaway region Kosovo. Russia bitterly opposed both.

Russia will not back down under international pressure and will not row back on the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Medvedev added.

"We are under political pressure, but this is not something new for us," he said.

He urged the regional governors to offer comprehensive assistance to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, including the shaping of their statehood.

"The new states should become examples of civil peace, national accord and commitment to democratic principles," he said.
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