Sunday

20th Jan 2019

EU urges Russia to halt Georgia 'provocations'

  • EU monitors in Georgia have policed the de facto borders since 2008 (Photo: Crisis Group)

Russia’s “annexation” of a small strip of land in Georgia has met with condemnation from the EU and the US.

Russian troops, earlier this week, moved markers saying “state border” 450 metres deeper into Georgia from the South Ossetia demarcation line.

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The step means Russia controls a 1.6 km-long segment of the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline, which is owned by British firm BP.

It puts Russian soldiers within a few metres of the E60 highway, which connects Tbilisi with the rest of the country.

It also cuts off local Georgian farmers from 10 hectares of wheat fields and cattle pastures.

The move was described to AFP by David Kereselidze, a Georgian foreign ministry spokesman, as “creeping annexation of Georgian territory [which] threatens peace and security in the entire region”.

The EU, which deployed monitors in Georgia after the 2008 war, said Russia's action is “provocative”.

It urged Russia to “avoid … any action that is detrimental to ongoing efforts to stabilise the situation” and called on Georgia to show “restraint”.

The US ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, said the land-grab is designed to “humiliate” Georgia’s pro-Western government.

Lithuania said it has a “negative impact on the security situation in the whole region”.

Its foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, added: “‘green men' in Ukraine, now 'green signs' in Georgia - Russia's aggressive disrespect of sovereignty must stop”.

The “green men” refers to Russian forces which removed their insignia during special operations in Crimea and east Ukraine.

The Georgia-Ukraine parallels have prompted activists in Kiev to call for a solidarity rally on Friday.

In other links, the former Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who was in power in 2008, is now the governor of Odessa, a Ukrainian region.

Meanwhile, US marines are training soldiers in west Ukraine and in Georgia.

The Georgian exercise, a Nato drill called Agile Spirit, also involves forces from Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania.

Reinis Bajko, a Latvian military officer, told the US army magazine, Stars and Stripes, that he’s there to help stop Georgia and Ukraine-type scenarios in the Baltic states.

“Currently, with what our big neighbour [Russia] is doing, it is important to come together and train ourselves and to make sure we are speaking the same military language”, he said.

Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 after saying Saakashvili’s forces fired on what it calls its “peacekeepers” in South Ossetia.

The conflict was halted by French diplomacy, with the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy agreeing a six-point peace plan with Moscow.

The plan was never implemented in full and Russia subsequently recognised South Ossetia as an independent state.

It is also recognised by Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru, a micro-state in the Pacific Ocean.

Two other micro-states, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, also recognised it, but later changed their minds.

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