Monday

1st Mar 2021

Georgia calls on EU to condemn Russia over missile strike

  • The pro-western Mikhail Saakashvili is seeking Georgia's NATO and EU entry (Photo: European Parliament)

Accusing Russia of committing an "act of aggression" against Georgia by firing a guided missile into its territory, Tbilisi said the EU should not appease Moscow, but send a "strong and clear-cut" message of condemnation.

"This is not Georgia's problem. This is a problem for European security and safety", Georgia's president Mikhail Saakashvili told Reuters news agency on Tuesday (7 August).

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Mr Saakashvili drew a parallel with the systematic cyber-attacks against Estonia's government and private websites earlier this year – something Tallinn claimed had been orchestrated by Moscow.

"I don't really see how often it can happen and how much further these intrusions might go before the international community has a really strong reaction", he added.

The statements came after a missile landed outside the Georgian village of Tsitelubani on Monday (6 August), some 65 km north-west of the capital Tbilisi. It left a crater around five metres deep, but did not detonate.

Georgian authorities claimed the missile had been fired by a Russian jet from a base in the North Caucasus – an accusation Moscow has strongly denied. The Kremlin instead pointed the finger back at Tbilisi.

"The fact that the Georgian armed forces have [Sukhoi jets] in operation...allows us to suppose that certain forces, acting according to type, are continuing to ratchet up the tensions around the conflicts in Georgia", Russia's foreign ministry stated, according to Reuters.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world's largest regional security organization, said it was "deeply concerned about the incident" and appealed to "all parties to address this serious issue with restraint".

"We are looking at information about the circumstances very carefully and due to its importance, we request the most accurate and urgent report on the facts," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, currently the OSCE chairman in office, said.

The incident has further increased the existing tension in relations between Russia and Georgia, a part of the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1991.

Mutual relations hit a low last year, when Tbilisi expelled four Russian military officers accusing them of spying. Moscow, in response, recalled its ambassador, deported around 130 Georgians and imposed an import ban on Georgia's main products – wine, mineral water and mandarin oranges.

However, the roots of the tension are believed to lie in frozen regional conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have remained outside Georgian central government control for more than a decade after breaking away in bloody conflicts in the early 1990s.

The fragile peace - which sees violent border skirmishes on a weekly basis - is currently overseen by Russian peacekeepers.

The two de facto states keep close ties with Russia. Georgia accuses the Russian army of giving arms and logistical support to rebels in an attempt to keep the country divided and problematise its planned 2009 NATO entry.

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