Friday

28th Apr 2017

Georgia to EU: Putin is more 'dangerous' than you think

Four years after a war which shocked Europe, Georgia's EU ambassador has said that Russia is becoming "more dangerous."

The Georgian envoy, Salome Samadashvili, spoke to EUobserver on Thursday (9 August), after Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed an inflammatory film about the conflict.

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  • War damage in Gori, Georgia (Photo: gavinsblog)

The YouTube video, entitled Lost Day, says Putin phoned the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, from China on 8 August 2008 to tell him to invade Georgia.

Putin on Wednesday confirmed the phone call and told Russian media he drew up plans for the invasion two years in advance.

"It's within the framework of this plan that the Russian side acted. It was prepared by the general staff at the end of 2006 or the beginning of 2007. It was approved by me, agreed with me," he said.

He added that Russian soldiers - who were stationed in South Ossetia, a breakaway Georgian region, as "peacekeepers" - trained and armed local paramilitaries as part of the plan.

"Our military specialists believed they could not provide assistance in a clash of regular armies, but they turned out to be much needed."

For some analysts, the revelations are designed to make Medvedev look weak in order to remove him from Russian politics.

For Georgia's EU envoy, they show the Union should heed Georgia's warnings that Russia is still a threat.

"The current Russian government is ... becoming more and more disdainful of the EU's opinion and openly shedding any pretence of respect for international law. They are [becoming] even more dangerous to neighbours like us," Samadashvili told this website.

She noted that Russia is to hold a military exercise - Kavkaz 2012, to take place in North Ossetia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian region - during Georgian elections in October.

"The statement made by Putin taken in the current context - its ongoing occupation [of Abkhazia and South Ossetia], the military exercise, its continuous attempts to destabilise our country - is a thinly veiled threat, an encouragement for those who committed ethnic cleansing against Georgian citizens," she said.

For his part, Georgia's foreign minister said in an op-ed for this website the EU should keep telling Russia to get out of occupied territories.

Georgian dreams

The war damaged Georgian President Mikheil Sakaashvili's international reputation.

An EU-mandated report published in 2009 said that he opened fire first on Ossetian irregulars, triggering the Russian response.

Meanwhile, the Georgian opposition - the Dream Coalition, a political movement bankrolled by Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili - is spreading news in the EU capital that Sakaashvili is corrupt and undemocratic.

The group has hired a top PR agency in Brussels, Burson-Marsteller, to get its message across.

The Georgian EU ambassador said Putin's comments shed new light on the 2009 war report.

She noted that Russian training of paramilitaries and Putin's 2006 plan go against the line that Russia attacked Georgia because Sakaashvili fired first.

"Clearly, after everything else failed to remove a pro-Western government from power, they [Russia] moved to a measure of last resort - full scale invasion," Samadashvili said.

She added that Ivanishvili's PR campaign is having limited results.

"Debate on Georgia in the European Parliament during the last session clearly demonstrated the failure of the lobbying groups to hijack the non-biased and objective discussion on the state of democracy in my country," she said.

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A cache of secret US cables on the 2008 Russia-Georgia war paints a vivid picture of how the EU split into 'Russia-friendly' and 'Russia-hostile' clubs, with German diplomats "parroting" Russian arguments and Latvia suggesting that Nato should consider sending arms to Georgia.

Vandalised EU flag tells story of Georgia conflict

As EU leaders in Brussels meet to debate Russia relations while diplomats in Geneva discuss Georgia security, one Polish aid worker aims to remind politicians of the stark realities of the conflict by giving the European Parliament a vandalised EU flag.

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