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Saakashvili: Russian Intimidation Of Georgia At New Level

Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili (left) meets Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in St. Petersburg in June

Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili (left) meets Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in St. Petersburg in June

YALTA, Ukraine -- Georgia says overflights of its territory by Russian military jets has raised Moscow's intimidation of its smaller neighbor to another level and displayed deep disdain for international law.

In a Reuters interview, President Mikheil Saakashvili said he was disappointed with the international response to Russia's statement that it had sent fighter jets into Georgian airspace over the breakaway South Ossetia region.

Georgia recalled its ambassador from Moscow in protest at the overflights, which Russia said were designed to prevent Georgian troops attacking the separatist region.

Saakashvili threatened to send police into South Ossetia earlier this week to free four detained Georgian soldiers, who were subsequently released.

"I don't recall anything as wild as this from that point of view since the Second World War," said Saakashvili, who was in Yalta for a European integration conference. "It looks like there are people in Moscow for whom words are no longer words, or for whom international law doesn't mean anything any more, and who just think they can bomb neighboring countries at will, whenever they want to, or for God knows what reason."

The Georgian leader urged the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to intervene to help ease tensions.

Surge In Violence

"Obviously we cannot fight with Russia. I mean we have to use all international diplomatic and political tools," he said.

Georgia's pro-Western government is locked in a confrontation with Russia over two Georgian regions -- South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- that have rejected Tbilisi's rule and are receiving support from Moscow.

A surge of violence in both regions this month have caused the deaths of at least six people. Russia has accused Georgia of orchestrating the violence, a charge Tbilisi denies.

Saakashvili expressed disappointment at the international response to heightened tensions with its much larger neighbor.

"Not only does Russia keeps surprising, but sometimes the inability of some parts of the international community to adequately react [is surprising]," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Tbilisi on July 10 for talks with Saakashvili, urged Russia "to be a part of resolving the problem...not contributing to it."

Moscow is competing with the United States and European Union for influence over Georgia. The country hosts the only pipelines pumping gas and oil from the Caspian Sea to world markets without going through Russia.

Russia views Tbilisi's ambition to join the NATO alliance as a threat to its own security and European states such as Britain, France, and Germany have appeared unwilling to antagonize Russia, a major energy supplier, over Georgia.