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Georgia Warns of Possible Russian Aggression
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 24 Oct.'08 / 15:24

Senior Georgian officials have warned that “further aggression” and “a repeat [Russian] attack” on Georgia were possible.

“We cannot remain indifferent towards the fact that instead of complying with its commitments under the August 12 ceasefire agreement, according to which Russia should be leaving the Akhalgori region, it is bringing in additional troops and weapons,” Davit Bakradze, the parliamentary chairperson, said on October 24.

He said that Georgia should prepare both within the country and internationally for possible Russian aggression.

“Unfortunately, we cannot yet rule out further aggressive moves from Russia,” he said. “We should be ready for it. We should be ready inside the country and naturally we should work intensively with our foreign partners to engender a sense of alarm among them about these developments.”

Georgia claimed on October 23 that Russia had again increased its military presence in breakaway South Ossetia in the previous week by 2,000, bringing total troop numbers to 7,000. Officials in Tbilisi said that it might be an indication that Moscow was planning to re-escalate tensions in the region.

Vano Merabishvili, the Georgian interior minister, during an online Q&A session on the Ministry’s online discussion forum on October 23, said that Russia had deployed 15 battle tanks, 40 armored personnel carriers and four combat helicopters in the Akhalgori region.

He also responded when asked whether further tensions were expected: “Nothing is ruled out.”

“I want to reiterate that the threat of a repeat attack persists,” Merabishvili added.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied sending extra troops to South Ossetia, saying it was disinformation. And Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said on October 23 that the Georgian Interior Ministry’s report was “not true.” “Such false information,” he said, had been disseminated regularly by the Georgian side.
 
Lavrov also said Georgia was not fulfilling its ceasefire commitments and warned that it was “dangerous to play with fire.” He criticized the EU monitoring mission for, as he put it, not paying due attention to this matter. Lavrov also said that there should be “strictly defined” demilitarized zones around Abkhazia and South Ossetia, otherwise he warned that the Georgian side’s activities in the areas adjacent to South Ossetia might lead “to dangerous clashes.”

Meanwhile, a U.S. official said on October 23 that he could not confirm that Russia had sent 2,000 extra troops to breakaway South Ossetia.

When asked if he could confirm the claims by the Georgian authorities that Russia had increased its military presence in South Ossetia to 7,000 troops, Robert Wood, a deputy spokesman of the U.S. Department of State responded: “I can’t confirm it, but you know, I do know that Russian forces do remain in Akhalgori in South Ossetia and in the Kodori Valley.”

“And we want to see these areas demilitarized immediately, but I don’t have a way of confirming the numbers,” he added.

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