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Heated Words But No Action On UN Security Council

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin at the UN on August 10
In a tense standoff at the UN Security Council, Russia and the United States traded accusations over Moscow's aggressive handling of its military operation in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia and the bombing of Georgia proper.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad warned Russia on August 10 that the continuing assault on Georgia will complicate relations between Washington and Moscow.

"I urge the Russian Federation to carefully consider the implications of this aggression against the sovereign and democratic state of Georgia," he said. "Russia's relations with the United States and others in the international community will be affected by its continued assault on Georgia and its refusal to contribute to a peaceful solution of this crisis."

Commenting on Russia's actions in Georgia, Khalilzad used much stronger language than during the previous three meetings on the issue held on August 8-9.

"We must condemn Russia's military assault on the sovereign state of Georgia, the violation of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the targeting of civilians and the campaign of terror against the Georgian population," he said. "Similarly, we need to condemn the destruction of Georgian infrastructure."

Khalilzad's angered Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, fired back that accusing Russia of terrorizing the civil population is "absolutely unacceptable."

"Now, let me say about Mr. Khalilzad's statement regarding 'terror' against the civil population," he began. "Such a statement, honorable Mr. Khalilzad, is absolutely unacceptable; moreover when it comes from a representative of a country [whose] actions with regard to the civil population are [well] known in Iraq, in Afghanistan, even in Serbia."

Churkin directed even harsher criticism to his Georgian counterpart Irakli Alasania's statement accusing the Russian military of "indiscriminate" bombing and the firing at targets within Georgia.

"I reject categorically the assumptions that we are conducting the military operations indiscriminately," Churkin said. "Mr. Alasania went as far as to argue that supposedly a statement made by a Russian prisoner of war, an air pilot, during an interrogation in Georgia, supposedly that he was instructed [by his superiors] to fire indiscriminately. Such an argument is right on blasphemous and outrageous [especially when made] during the open session of the UN Security Council."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly called on "all sides involved" to show restraint, but his appeals have thus far had no effect.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mullet said that all 15 members of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) had to leave the Kodori Gorge on the insistence of Abkhaz authorities. He said the UNOMIG staff is unable to gather information from the Georgian side and is thus forced to rely on Russian media reports only.

"The situation in Abkhazia remains extremely concerning, with a military build-up continuing on the Abkhaz side of the zone of conflict, as well as bombings of the upper Kodori Valley," he said. "Over the past two days, the Abkhaz side has moved troops and heavy weapons into the zone of conflict."

Khalilzad said the United States will soon present the Security Council with a draft resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire between Georgia and Russia. The Russian-Georgian conflict will continue to top the council's agenda in the coming week.