Conflict cools but tensions remain in breakaway republics

Interfax News Agency, Russia
Aug 13 2008

SUMMARY: Conflict cools but tensions remain in breakaway republics

MOSCOW August 13

The following is a summary of events in the Georgian-South Ossetian
conflict and the crisis in the Caucasus to 18:00 Moscow time on August
13. For up-to-the-minute coverage, please see the Interfax Russia &
CIS General Newswire.

Military operations

The Russian General Staff said Russian forces stopped all active
military operations, such as guarding transport routes for aid, in
Georgia at 15:00 MST on August 13 and is now planning its withdrawal
as envisioned in the peace plan brokered by French President Nicolas
Sarkozy. It also claimed Georgia was not yet in full compliance with
its ceasefire obligations assumed under the agreement.

Russian armed forces units stopped active military operations in
Georgia at 3:00 p.m. Moscow time on August 12 but were told not to
leave the area where they received this order, Gen. Anatoly
Nogovitsyn, a deputy chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, said
at a news conference on Wednesday.

"Some units are protecting transportation facilities, primarily the
Zari road, through which humanitarian aid is being delivered and an
independent medical battalion started working in Tskhinvali," he said.

Russia’s General Staff has now started planning the withdrawal of its
troops to their permanent bases.

"Following the suspension of the operation [to compel the Georgian
authorities to peace], the Russian General Staff has started planning
the withdrawal of troops to their permanent bases," Nogovitsyn said.

"We’ve already been informed that the troops on Russian territory, who
were preparing for use as reinforcements, have halted their
activities," Nogovitsyn said.

Russia saw no reasons to beef up its peacekeeping forces in South
Ossetia before the recent armed conflict, he said.

"We treat the status of the peacekeepers as sacred, and we did not see
reasons to beef up these forces beforehand," Nogovitsyn said.

However, the mandate of the peacekeeping forces in the Georgian- South
Ossetian conflict zone will have to be re-formulated, he said.

"The previous mechanism can no longer be applied in the shape existing
earlier. I would not say what adjustments could be made. This is
political business," Nogovitsyn said at a news briefing in Moscow on

No Russian troops were needed for peace enforcement operations against
the Georgian military in the Kodori Gorge, he added.

"Peacekeepers forced [Georgian] units illegally equipped with heavy
forms of weapons to peace in the Kodori Gorge and no other forces or
resources were required in this instance, although [Russian soldiers]
were prepared [to engage]," he said.

Georgia is not fully abiding by the ceasefire agreement with Russia,
he said.

"As of today, unfortunately, [the agreement] is not being carried out
in full, therefore we are being forced to carry out missions to hit
firing points, snipers, etc," he said.

The Russian General Staff says a considerable number of Georgian units
still remain near the Georgia-Ossetia conflict area.

"The Georgian armed forces begun withdrawing their troops in the
direction of Tbilisi as of 9:00 a.m. on August 13. Nevertheless, we
are concerned about the concentration of Georgian troops near the
security zone," Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the Russian General
Staff, told a briefing in Moscow on Wednesday.

"We are not seeing an active withdrawal of the Georgian troops yet,"
he said.

Nogovitsyn said groups of Georgian saboteurs are still active,
including in South Ossetia.

He denied that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had visited the
conflict zone in South Ossetia in person.

"He never went anywhere. He didn’t have enough spirit to appear in
Tskhinvali," Nogovitsyn said.


The General Staff also denied claims that Russian units were heading
to Tbilisi and that Russian tanks were patrolling the town of Gori,
located on Georgia’s key capital-coast highway. However, the road has
been closed and it was also claimed that the authorities in Gori had
fled, leaving the town without Georgian leadership.

The Russian military leadership has denied reports of Russian army
convoys of armored vehicles moving from Gori in the direction of

"Russian formations or army vehicles are not heading for Tbilisi.

We do not have such objectives," he said.

Motorways linking Tbilisi and western Georgia have been shut down.

"That was done for security purposes, in connection with Russian
armored vehicles’ withdrawal from Gori," chief of Tbilisi Traffic
Police Giorgy Gegechkori told the press.

It is yet unknown when the traffic will resume on the central motorway
between Tbilisi and western Georgia, he said.

Russian General Staff Deputy Head Anatoly Nogovitsyn, meanwhile,
denied claims that Russian tanks remained stationed in Georgia’s Gori.

"I state with full responsibility that there are no, and there could
not be any tanks in Gori," Nogovitsyn said at a news conference in
Moscow on Wednesday.

However, an unguarded arms depot has been discovered in the outskirts
of Gori, a spokesman for the command of the peacekeeping force told

"A discarded depot with large quantities of army hardware and
ammunition has been discovered near the town of Gori. It is absolutely
unguarded. The hardware is fully ready for use," he said.

"With the purpose of demilitarizing the zone adjacent to the conflict
area and also guaranteeing the safety of the civilian population,
Russian peacekeepers are evacuating this hardware vehicles and
ammunition," he said.

"The administration of this town disgracefully abandoned their posts,
and we have so far been unsuccessful in establishing contact with the
aim of suspending armed actions and implementing the settlement
principles" agreed upon between Moscow and Tbilisi with France’s
mediation, he said.

Georgia does not control the city of Gori, Nogovitsyn said.

"We need to discuss all issues concerning losses with the legitimate
administration, including [the administration of] this city, and we
cannot find anyone. How they were evacuated and what happened there is
a mystery to us," he said.

The Russian General Staff has no information about the reported death
of journalists in the Georgian town of Gori.

"I know about this [the reports], and I have studied this information,
but it requires verification. Journalists actively help us cover the
true picture and work among the troops, but we don’t have full and
clear information on this now," Nogovitsyn said.

"As soon as we have it, we will certainly revert to this issue," he


The General Staff reported that a total of 74 Russian servicemen were
killed during hostilities and that Russia sustained serious aviation
losses in the early phases of its operation. However, it believes
Georgian losses to be far higher, in part due to an interrogation of
captured Georgian servicemen. Russia is proposing its POWs be traded
for Russian pilots captured in Georgia.

Seventy-four Russian military servicemen have been killed in the
Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone, said Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a
deputy chief of staff of the Russian armed forces.

"The current losses of the group’s personnel are 74 people dead, 171
people wounded, and 19 missing," Nogovitsyn said at a press conference
in Moscow on Wednesday.

The Russian military command will draw serious conclusions from the
operation in South Ossetia, in particular serious aviation losses.

"At first we sustained serious losses [during the operation to compel
the Georgian authorities to peace], including in aviation, but we drew
our conclusions and we will be doing so in the future," Nogovitsyn

Russian planes which flew missions in the peace enforcement operation
in Georgia were shot down with air defense systems supplied by Ukraine
and other countries, members of a Russian military delegation said on
Wednesday after a meeting of the Air Defense Coordinating Council of
the CIS Council of Ministers in Dushanbe.

"According to information available to us, a Tupolev Tu-22 long- range
supersonic bomber and several Sukhoi Su-25 jets were shot down with
S-200 and TOR surface-to-air systems, supplied to Georgia by
Ukraine. Ukrainian crews were operating the air defense systems," a
member of the Russian military delegation said.

Russian military experts believes the losses suffered by the Georgian
troops in the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict area far exceed the
losses suffered by the Russian military, but doubt that Georgia will
admit this.

"The losses suffered by the Georgian army far exceed the losses
suffered by the Russian peacekeepers," said a military expert who is
well informed about the number of Georgian troops killed in the

"Let’s see if Georgia is brave enough to admit this," the expert said.

"The thing is that we are talking about human lives here, and, in
accordance with all moral norms, responsibility for any decision to
hide the truth will rest with those who will make such a decision,"
the expert told reporters.

Two captured Georgian servicemen said during an interrogation that the
Georgian army had sustained large losses in the conflict in South
Ossetia, Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigation Committee of
the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, told the press.

"Two Georgian contract servicemen confessed during an interrogation
that the Georgian army had left behind a large number of dead and
wounded soldiers as it was retreating," Markin said.

Russia’s General Staff is proposing a list-for-list exchange of
prisoners and dead.

"We’ve proposed a list-for-list exchange to the Georgians. Each side
will be able to see who’s on the lists, and then we’ll be able to
clarify the situation with missing persons, who might be held
prisoner, and with other areas," Nogovitsyn said.

This option is on the table, and Russia is waiting for the Georgians’
reply, Novgovitsyn said.

Georgian military servicemen captured by Russian peacekeepers in the
Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone are likely to be swapped for
Russian servicemen, particularly the Russian pilot downed by the
Georgian Air Defense forces, said a source from the Russian security

"Negotiations are currently under way about the fate of the captured
servicemen. The Georgian servicemen are likely to be swapped for the
Russian pilot officer, who was downed in Georgia," the source said.

About 200 Georgian servicemen and members of subversive groups, who
participated in the armed aggression against South Ossetia, have been
captured, a source in South Ossetia’s special services told Interfax.

"There are Russian investigators among those questioning them. The
first thing that interests them is the facts of killing servicemen of
the peacekeeping contingent," the source said.

The Georgian prisoners could then be swapped for captured Russian
servicemen, and for citizens of South Ossetia kidnapped by the
Georgian military during the operation in Tskhinvali and in other
populated areas, the source said.

"According to witnesses’ accounts, Georgian military herded people
onto trucks and took them away towards Georgia," the source said.

The deputy head of the South Ossetian Traffic Police is among those
unaccounted for, he said.


Meanwhile, Ukraine denied it is supplying weapons to the Georgia Armed
Forces, despite claims by the Russian General Staff that arms supplies
from Kyiv had precipitated Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s
decision to launch his country’s offensive against South Ossetia.

Nogovitsyn said the Russian armed forces did not use any new weapons
in the Georgia-Ossetia conflict area.

"It’s not a testing ground. We do tests in other places," Nogovitsyn
told a press conference in Moscow.

"We did not use anything new," he said.

Ukraine is currently not supplying weapons to Georgia, said the
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

The large supplies of weapons from the NATO countries and Ukraine have
pushed Georgia to attack South Ossetia, said Nogovitsyn.

"If [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili had not been armed up to
the teeth, he would never have made such a decision," he said.

When asked what he thinks about the proposal to include NATO and
Ukrainian troops in the peacekeeping force in South Ossetia, he said:
"They have already taken part in it."

"Time will show who instructed the Georgian troops, who trained them,
and who supplied weapons and military equipment to Georgia," he said.

"Ukraine, of course, is the main supplier [of weapons to Georgia],
including from the manufacturing plants, although some of the
equipment was not new," said Nogovitsyn.

"At this stage, we are not supplying any weapons [to Georgia], not a
cartridge," Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantin Yeliseyev
told a briefing in Kyiv on Tuesday.

Military-technical cooperation between Ukraine and Georgia is
conducted in accordance with the norms of international law, he said.

At this stage, the supply of weapons is not being discussed because
the main thing is to establish "a language of diplomacy," said

According to earlier reports, the Georgian army actively used
Ukrainian-made weapons in its invasion of South Ossetia.

Abkhaz Defense Minister Merab Kishmariya on Wednesday left for the
upper part of the Kodori Gorge, which has been freed from Georgian

"Having completed the administration of the operation, the defense
minister went there to organize a combat reserve because the Georgian
troops left a lot of weapons and ammunition when they were
retreating," Abkhaz General Staff chief Anatoly Zaitsev said.

"The weapons and ammunition were made mainly in the U.S. and Italy and
only a small amount of them are Soviet-made weapons," he said.

"Among the trophies are firearms, anti-aircraft systems, artillery
tubs, and grenade launchers," he said.

Abkhaz troops have organized observer posts in mountain passes and are
currently combing the gorges, he said.

There was a calm atmosphere in the region last night, Zaitsev said.

Black Sea Fleet

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has approved a
Wednesday resolution of the National Security and Defense Council on
the rules of border crossings by the personnel, warships and aerial
vehicles of the Russian Black Sea Fleet deployed in Ukrainian

"There is a need to introduce a mechanism of permits for the crossing
of the state border of Ukraine by servicemen, freight vessels,
warships and aerial vehicles of the Black Sea Fleet permitting to
obtain impartial information about the presence of the fleet in
Ukraine’s territory," the council resolution approved by the president

"Ships and aircraft of the fleet shall be allowed to cross Ukraine’s
state border only after notifying the Ukrainian Navy headquarters. The
notification must be submitted no less than 72 hours before the
expected border crossing," the presidential decree approving the
resolution says.

The notification should indicate how many people there are on the said
ship or aircraft, and whether it carries arms, ammunition, explosives
or army property.

Yushchenko confirmed that the command of the Black Sea Fleet is
obliged to negotiate its movement outside it’s bases in Ukraine with
the Ukrainian agencies concerned.

"The command of the Black Sea Fleet is to refer an application, in
accordance with the established procedure, for the approval of the
fleet’s movement at least ten working days before the beginning of the
movement," the rules require.

Within a day following the receipt of the application, the Ukrainian
Defense Ministry is to send a copy of it to the Interior Ministry, the
Ukrainian Security Council, the Emergency Situations Ministry, the
State Border Service and the State Customs Service, the document says.

"The Defense Ministry, within seven working days following the receipt
of the application from the Black Sea Fleet command, shall inform the
Black Sea Fleet Command and the agencies concerned, in line with the
established procedure, that such a permission has or has not been
granted," according to the rules given in the document.

Moscow expressed surprise over Yushchenko’s decree obliging the Black
Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol, to seek official permission for its

"This is nothing else but the Ukrainian leader’s politically-
motivated erratic conduct," sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry
told Interfax on Wednesday.

The sources made it understood that Moscow see this decree as

"It is at variance with all agreements between Russia and Ukraine on
the Black Sea Fleet," they said.

Moscow also said that it hopes that the reaction of Kyiv to the
developments in South Ossetia will be appropriate.

"We have directly expressed to Kyiv our attitude to Ukraine’s stance
on the South Ossetian tragedy. As partners and close neighbors we have
the right to expect that Kyiv’s behavior will be appropriate and
balanced," Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said in an
interview with Interfax on Wednesday.

"We are aware of active attempts to form an anti-Russian International
on any pretext and drag Ukraine into it," he added.

Energy Gas and oil supplies along all the key pipelines crossing
Georgia have now been stopped due to safety concerns. The
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, the one major pipeline in the region to bypass
Russia, is not transporting supplies due to an earlier accident and,
thanks to the conflict, have yet to be resumed. The flow of gas
through the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum to Turkey has also been
suspended. The conflict has aslo seen Azerbaijan divert supplies from
the route to the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline and BP- Azerbaijan has
stopped the flow of oil through the Baku-Supsa pipeline.

Supplies of Russian gas to Armenia have been resumed in full.

BP-Azerbaijan has suspended the flow of gas through the Baku-Tbilisi-
Erzurum pipeline for reasons of safety, the company told Interfax on
August 13.

The company said that owing to the current situation in Georgia, the
flow of gas had been suspended through this pipeline. However,
pressure in the pipeline will allow for deliveries to Georgia and
Turkey, the company said, adding that Azerbaijan is receiving gas
through an alternate system and was experiencing no problems in this

BP-Azerbaijan added that production at the Shah-Deniz field, from
which gas is transferred into the pipeline, was still underway. A
company representative said that production at the field had
decreased, however, owing to an accident on the Turkish section of the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, the company had stopped pumping

It was earlier reported that BP-Azerbaijan had suspended oil transport
through the Baku-Supsa pipeline citing reasons of security and safety
Since 2007 following the launch of production at Shah-Denis,
Azerbaijan has started transporting 800 million cubic meters of gas a
year to Georgia and 6.3 billion cubic meters of gas a year to Turkey,
which is resold to Greece.

The contract for the development of the Shah-Denis field was signed in
Baku on June 1996 and was ratified by the Azeri parliament on October
17 of the same year. Participating in the Shah-Denis project as BP
(the operator with 25.5%), Statoil (25.5%), Lukoil (10%), NICO (10%),
TotalFinaElf (10%) and TPAO (9%).

Meanwhile, supplies of Russian natural gas to Armenia have been fully
resumed, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian told journalists on
August 13.

Armenia is currently receiving 4.7 million cubic meters of gas per
day, or the same amount as usual, he said.

ArmRosGazprom CEO Shushan Sardarian said yesterday that Russian
natural gas exports to Armenia have decreased by 30% as of August 7.

She said that gas deliveries to Armenia had decreased owing to the
actions of the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation, which without notice
had commenced test operations on its section of a 700 mm trunk gas
pipeline. As a result, gas pressure in the system fell.

Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation, for its part, has denied the report.


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has launched proceedings aimed at
the rehabilitation of South Ossetia, including mechanisms for monetary
and other forms of aid to residents of the gutted region. Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered humanitarian aid to ease the
burdens being placed on both South and North Ossetia, which is housing
the majority of displaced peoples. Emergency Situations Minister
Sergei Shoigu is to oversee operations.

Medvedev has instructed Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister
Alexei Kudrin to strictly control the allocation of funds for the
rehabilitation of South Ossetia.

"I would like you to do this on a permanent basis, follow the
transfers of money and make sure that everything that we have planned
and the government decided on be put into practice. This concerns both
this immediate assistance for restoring lost property [50,000 rubles
to everyone who lost their property] and the spending of the funds
that we have planned for the restoration of the city and the
restoration of South Ossetian citizens’ property," Medvedev said at a
conference in the Kremlin on Wednesday.

The restoration of South Ossetia is "not a quick process," but
"everything needs to be done to help the people," Medvedev said
addressing Kudrin.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered humanitarian and socio-
economic measures to be taken to ease the plight of refugees from
South Ossetia, and to improve amenities for North Ossetia residents,
the military and civil servants, the government press service has

A 500 million-ruble subsidy will be provided to North Ossetia as a
measure to balance up the regional budgets, the press service said.

Putin has also signed a resolution to provide additional benefits to
servicemen and federal civil servants, who were involved in the effort
to ensure the security and to protect Russian citizens residing in
South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Twenty-one million rubles will be made available to North Ossetia
specially for non-working pensioners (Russian citizens), affected by
the Georgina-Ossetian conflict.

Another resolution lists measures to help citizens, who temporarily
left their places of permanent residence in South Ossetia and are
temporarily accommodated in Russia.

Putin has ordered an emergency headquarters to be set up under
Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu’s chairmanship to organize
the work to deal with the aftermath of the armed conflict in South
Ossetia and to aid the population affected by the conflict.

Russian humanitarian aid is on its way to South Ossetia and those in
need will soon see the situation improving, Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov said.

"The humanitarian aspect is a vital element now. The sides have been
asked to guarantee unobstructed delivery of humanitarian aid and are
expected to open humanitarian corridors," Lavrov said at a news
conference in Moscow on Wednesday.

"This work is already being done locally. I hope those in need [of
humanitarian aid] will soon see the situation improving," the foreign
minister said.

A special medical unit of the North Caucasus Military District has
begun working in the populated area of Dzhava in South Ossetia,
Vladimir Shappo, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Main Military
Medical Department, said on Wednesday.

"Over 100 medics from the leading military medical establishments have
been sent [to South Ossetia] to strengthen the work of the medical
service of the units in the Georgia-Ossetia conflict area," Shappo
told the military observers’ press club in the Defense Ministry.

The medical unit has been moved from Rostov-on-Don to Dzhava, where a
field military hospital has been deployed, Shappo said.

The medical establishments of South Ossetia are receiving equipment,
medicines and specialists to help civilians hurt in the conflict,
Shappo said.

If the need arises, special-purpose medical units and staff units of
the Russian Armed Forces will be moved to areas where they are needed,
Shappo said.


Moscow has welcomed the restoration of Abkhaz control over the Kodori
Gorge, saying the withdrawal of Georgian troops brings that country
back in line with the Moscow Accords of 1994. Abkhaz President Sergei
Bagapsh has called for Russian peacekeepers to remain in the region
amid fears Georgian forces are recuperating in preparation for another
armed attack.

Georgia’s demands for a halt of the peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia
may be an attempt to prepare an armed attack against the republic, the
Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"The demands for a halt of the peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia,
which is being conducted in accordance with the norms of international
law, look like nothing else than an attempt to prepare a new armed
attack, this time against Abkhazia," the Russian Foreign Ministry said
in a statement issued on Wednesday.

"If Mikheil Saakashvili’s absurd demand for a halt of the peacekeeping
operation in Abkhazia is fulfilled, the region risks getting into a
deeper crisis resulting from the unhealthy ambitions of the current
Georgian administration," said the Russian Foreign Ministry.

"Such a scenario is categorically unacceptable for the people living
in the region. It may lead to more bloodshed, more refugees, and an
even greater humanitarian catastrophe," the document says.

"Such a scenario would run counter to the efforts made by those
members of the international community who are today expressing
interest in resolving the crisis as quickly as possible," the document

Russian military in Abkhazia have obtained Georgia’s plan of invasion
of Abkhazia, said Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the Russian
General Staff.

Nogovitsyn showed the plan at a press conference in Moscow on

"It’s a trophy map belonging to a [Georgian] headquarters office.

It was obtained by paratroopers from the 4th attack regiment on August
11. It outlines a detailed plan of invading Abkhazia," he said.

The Georgian army now poses no military threat to Abkhazia now that
the Georgian units have been disarmed in the Kodori Gorge, he said.

"The [Georgian] servicemen in the Kodori Gorge have been disarmed.

We will allow them what they are entitled to under the documents and
treaties signed in 1992 which is to have a staff pistol to carry out
their duties, because they have been disarmed they do not pose any
threat," he said.

The Russian peacekeepers deployed in the Georgian-South Ossetian
conflict zone have accepted more than 700 weapons from Georgian forces
during an operation on disarming them in the Kodori Gorge of Abkhazia,
he said.

"In line with an ultimatum on surrendering weapons announced
yesterday, the Russian peacekeepers accepted more than 700 pieces of
weapons contradicting the 1992 accords from the Georgian troops. They
are mostly foreign-made," Nogovitsyn said.

Moscow is contented with the fact that the situation in the Kodori
Gorge of Abkhazia has been brought into line with the existing
international agreements, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"Talking about Abkhazia, I will say that we are contented with the
fact that the situation in the Kodori Gorge, which was in violation of
Georgia’s commitments under the Moscow Accords because of Georgia’s
actions, has been brought into line with the existing agreements,"
Lavrov said at a news briefing in Moscow on Wednesday.

"The floor has been cleared of extraneous factors related to Tbilisi’s
numerous violations of its commitments," he said.

"I think it is time now to return to the strict observance of the
agreements that existed and on their basis look for additional ways to
provide stability and ensure security of the people living in that
region," Lavrov said.

Abkhaz armed forces conducted a military operation on Tuesday on
ousting Georgian troops from the upper part of the Kodori Gorge, the
only area in Abkhazia that was under Tbilisi’s control.

After the main phase of the operation was finished, Abkhaz troops
started searching for armed Georgian groups that could still be
present in the Kodori Gorge.

Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh has told Interfax that decisions on
issues relating to the restoration of the Abkhaz administration in the
upper part of the Kodori Gorge will be made on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Bagapsh visited the village of Achara to become familiar
with the areas where the Georgian troops have been located until

"We once said that our land will stay ours and there will be an Abkhaz
flag here, not a Georgian flag. This has happened now. The Georgian
military have miscalculated. It is a little too early to speak about
full resumption of peaceful life because we still need to check the
territory for possible remaining gangs," Bagapsh said.

"I believe the people will come back here soon. Look, the windows are
closed with shutters, but the cattle is grazing again, like it used to
be. It means the people will come back," Bagapsh said.

Abkhazia wants the Russian peacekeeping mission to be continued in its

"Russian peacekeepers are the sole guarantors of the non-resumption of
the bloodshed between Georgia and Abkhazia," Abkhaz Foreign Minister
Sergei Shamba told Interfax on Wednesday.

"Otherwise, nothing else will be left to us and the Ossetians but to
complete the war and end it in Tbilisi," he said.

"As long as Georgia has armed forces, it will continue being a threat
to the Caucasus," Shamba said.

"Over the years of independence, from 1918 to 1921, and since 1990 to
this day Georgia has unleashed seven wars. An end must be put to this
once and for all," he said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier said that the future of the
peacekeeping mission in Abkhazia could not be decided without
Sukhumi’s participation. "We deem it impossible to decide the future
of the peacekeeping operation without taking the opinion of the Abkhaz
side into account," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement
on Wednesday.

The CIS Collective Peacekeeping Forces are performing their mission in
Abkhazia at not only Georgia’s but also at Abkhazia’s consent, which
is stipulated by the 1994 Moscow Accords, it said.

Second, the presence of the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Forces in the
Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone is supported by the UN Security Council,
which has been "repeatedly reflected in its resolutions."

"The provisions regarding the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Forces are
an inseparable part of the 1994 Moscow Accords, that is, the
liquidation of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces would dismantle the
entire international legal architecture of the Georgian-Abkhaz
settlement process," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Russia intends to continue its peacekeeping mission in Abkhazia
despite Georgia’s decision to declare the Russian troops in the region
occupants and denounce the agreement on their presence.

"Being guided by our international obligations and a sense of
responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the region, the
Russian federation will continue fulfilling its peacekeeping mission
in Abkhazia and South Ossetia," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a
statement issued on Wednesday.

According to earlier reports, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili
has made a decision to "denounce the agreement on the presence of the
Russian peacekeeping mission in Abkhazia and declare the Russian
troops in the Abkhaz region occupation forces."

The Russian Foreign Ministry admits that the peacekeeping operation in
Abkhazia can be stopped at the request of one of the parties to the
conflict, but stresses that Saakashvili’s statement looks like "an
attempt to prepare for a new military attack."

The status of Abkhazia is not subject to negotiation and the republic
will seek the recognition of its independence, said Abkhaz envoy in
Russia Igor Akhba.

"We have made a decision on our status. The status of Abkhazia is not
subject to negotiation," Abkha told a press conference in Moscow on

"We will bring the issue of the independence of the Republic of
Abkhazia up again with Russia and the international community," he

Akhba said Abkhazia has all the necessary grounds to seek the
recognition of its independence.


Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his Foreign Minister and
later Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze have both criticized
Saakashvili’s decision to launch the campaign against South Ossetia.

Gorbachev blamed the West for encouraging him and for training
Georgia’s armed forces, while Shevardnadze claimed his successor had
fallen into a Russian trap.

Former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has called the Georgian
leadership’s decision to start military actions in the Tskhinvali
region "a serious mistake".

"They should have calculated everything, including the possible
transfer of Russian troops to the Tskhinvali region, which apparently
was not done," Shevardnadze told Interfax on Wednesday.

By starting the military offensive against the Tskhinvali region, the
Georgian authorities "got into a Russian trap," Shevardnadze said.

"Russia had long been developing a plan to drag Georgia into armed
confrontation, but the incumbent Georgian authorities disregarded this
and pinned too much hope on their own strength," he said.

Shevardnadze ruled out the possibility that the U.S. or other Western
countries could have promised military assistance to Georgian
President Mikheil Saakashvili in case of the conflict’s escalation. "I
completely rule out the possibility that Washington or other Western
capitals could have promised military assistance to Saakashvili,
because nobody in the West wants military confrontation with Russia,"
he said.

The only way out of the situation is negotiations with Russia,
Shevardnadze said.

Commenting on statements by a number of Russian political figures
implying that Saakashvili is not a man to negotiate with, Shevardnadze
said this would be a mistake. "Nobody has the right to treat the
leader of a state legitimately elected by the people as a desired or
undesired negotiator," he said.

"I can’t make forecasts, because I don’t possess enough political
information, but the situation in Georgia is very difficult now," he

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev believes the West’s position
provoked the Georgian leadership into attacking South Ossetia.

"One could resort to this only feeling support and encouragement from
a much more powerful force. The Georgian armed forces were trained by
hundreds of American instructors, and up-to-date military hardware was
bought in different countries. This, as well as the promises of NATO
membership, inspired the ruling regime with the sense of
overconfidence and impunity and suggested thoughts about a blitzkrieg
against South Ossetia, Gorbachev wrote in an article published in the
Wednesday issue of Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

"Mikheil Saakashvili hoped for the West’s unconditional support, and
the West gave grounds for that," he said.

"What happened early on August 8, including the shelling of the
capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, using area-covering missile
weapons, is beyond comprehension," Gorbachev said.

"Russia could not fail to react to this. Accusing it of aggression
against ‘a small and defenseless Georgia’ is not simply a hypocritical
but also an inhuman position," Gorbachev said.

"It is obvious now that the Georgian leadership’s decision to send
troops against the civilian population was a reckless scheme that
resulted in tragic consequences for thousands of people of different
ethnicities," Gorbachev said.

The parliament of North Ossetia has adopted an address to the Russian
federal authorities and the entire world community asking them to
recognize South Ossetia’s independence.

"The parliamentarians of North Ossetia sincerely thank the country’s
administration and all people of Russia for everything that has been
done to protect the citizens of South Ossetia and stop the
extermination of the people of Ossetia. We are asking the Russian
administration to recognize the independence of South Ossetia," the
analytical center of the North Ossetian parliament told Interfax on

"We fully agree with the country’s administration that reintegration
of South Ossetia into Georgia is impossible, taking into account the
scale of the tragedy, the victims and the suffering by the people of
Ossetia, the destruction, the huge number of refugees, and the norms
and principles of international law," the release says.

"The parliament of the Republic of North Ossetia is again asking you
to consider recognizing the independence of the Republic of South
Ossetia. We firmly believe that the legal, political and historical
norms allow this to be done," the parliamentarians said.