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Telegraph: Russia accused of 'annexation' of Georgia provinces

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  • Robert
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2009
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      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
      Caucasus.

      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
      espionage.

      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
      Abkhazia.

      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.
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