Telegraph: Russia accused of 'annexation' of Georgia provinces
- Russia has been accused of carrying out the stealth annexation of a
third of Georgia after the Kremlin imposed direct control over the
borders of two rebel regions at the heart of last year's war in the
By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
Last Updated: 12:59AM BST 01 May 2009
From left to right: Sergei Bagapsh of Abkhazia, Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev, Eduard Kokoity of South Ossetia speak at a joint news
conference at the Kremlin Photo: PA
Moscow's move, which drew swift international condemnation, comes amid
fears of a new crisis in East-West relations following the expulsion
from Brussels of two Russian diplomats to Nato who were accused of
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, signed two pacts giving Moscow
formal responsibility for the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,
two Georgian provinces which have declared independence from Tbilisi.
Russia invaded Georgia last summer to support the rebel administration
in South Ossetia after fighting erupted between the separatists and
the Georgian army. Russian troops also opened up a second front in
After defeating the Georgian army within five days, Russia defied
international opinion by recognising the sovereignty of both "states",
a move followed only by Nicaragua. The West maintains that both
provinces lie on sovereign territory.
Mr Medvedev's announcement, while backed by the governments of both
breakaway provinces, has again raised questions over whether Russia
has imperial designs inside Georgia.
President Mikheil Saakashvili's government said that Mr Medvedev's
decision was evidence that large swathes of Georgia had effectively
been annexed by Russia.
"This is yet another step made by the Russian authorities towards
completing the occupation of these two Georgian regions," said Eka
Tkeshelashvili, Georgia's national security adviser.
Mr Saakashvili denounced the deal as a "dangerous development" and
accused Russia of trying to legitimise its occupation of Georgian
territory through "legal manoeuvering".
Nato condemned Russia's move, saying it violated two ceasefire
agreements brokered by the European Union to end last year's war.
Russia has shown little interest in abiding by those agreements,
however. Its forces continue to occupy parts of undisputed Georgian
territory outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia, while Moscow has also
announced its intentions both to deploy thousands more soldiers and
build permanent military bases in the two provinces.
Mr Medvedev, however, seemed in little mood to compromise as his
administration mounted a double broadside against Nato.
The president accused the alliance of deliberately provoking Russia by
organising military exercises, which will involve a small number of
British army advisers, in Georgia next month.
Nato insists that the manouevres, which have been planned for over a
year, are focused on peacekeeping and represent no threat to Russia.
But Mr Medvedev said they were an "overt provocation".
There was even stronger condemnation of Nato from the Russian foreign
ministry after the alliance announced the expulsion of two diplomats
accused of spying.
Nato officials said the expulsions were connected to a spy scandal
which led to an Estonian official being jailed for 12 years. Herman
Simm, who was involved in creating EU and Nato information protection
systems, has been described as Moscow's most successful double agent
since the Cold War after he handed over thousands of pages of secret
documents to his Russian intelligence handlers.
But the Russian foreign ministry denied that either of the diplomats
was involved in espionage, saying that the decision to expel them was
based on an "absolutely invented pretext".
"A gross provocation has been carried out against two employees of
Russia's permanent office at Nato," the ministry said in a statement.
"This outrageous action fundamentally contradicts statements by Nato's
leadership on its readiness to normalise ties with Russia."
The expulsions came on the day that full diplomatic contacts between
Russia and Nato, suspended during the Georgia war, were resumed.
Russia has not yet indicated how it will retaliate either to the
expulsions or to the exercises in Georgia, which begin next week.