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Georgia protests against Russian military exercises

By Temuri Kiguradze
Tuesday, June 30
The Russian military command has announced the start of the Kavkaz-2009 military exercises which will be conducted in the North Caucasus region close to the Russian-Georgian border. According to the Russian Defence Ministry more than 8,000 servicemen will be involved in the drills, which will last until July 6. 200 tanks, 450 armoured vehicles and up to 250 artillery devices will be used.

“The exercises will utilise and analyze a large spectrum of the possible adequate military measures for the provision of security to Russian citizens, important transport and energy communications and strategic facilities, and measures directed towards the defence of Russia’s economic interests in its south-western regions,” stated Andrey Bobrun, spokesperson for the Russian North Caucasus military district, as quoted by Russian news agency RIA Novosti on June 29. Bobrun added that Russian military units deployed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia will also participate in Kavkaz 2009. He underlined that North Caucasus forces will “act in the light of the experience gained during the peace enforcement operation in Georgia.”

The de facto authorities of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have also announced their participation in the drills. According to the puppet South Ossetian authorities these will take place in South Ossetia as well. Speaking to Russian media, the de facto head of South Ossetia’s so-called Defence Ministry Yuri Tanaev called the drills “useful” but would not say exactly what operations the South Ossetian servicemen would be undertaking. The Abkhazian puppet regime plans to send troops to Kavkaz 2009 as well.

On Monday the Russian Interfax news agency reported that an unnamed “senior official” from the Russian General Staff had said that large-scale military exercises at the Georgian border would “cool the fantasies of some hawks” in Tbilisi. “The present Georgian authorities have not rejected embarking on new military adventures in respect of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and have not given up attempts to settle the territorial issues by force,” the Russian military official was quoted as saying.

Tbilisi reacted sharply to the announcement of the start of the exercises. Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Nalbandov described them as “a very dangerous provocation.” “Holding such manoeuvres against the backdrop of an explosive situation will only contribute to creating further tensions,” Nalbandov told journalists, adding that Tbilisi is “indignant” at Russia stating that the exercises will be conducted in the light of the experience of the August war. Nalbandov also stated that the international community also considers these drills a provocation. “I hope Russia will understand the protest of the international community,” concluded the Deputy Minister.

Georgian independent conflict expert Malkhaz Chemia considers that the Kremlin is trying to achieve several things by holding the Kavkaz 2009 drills. “It’s not only a demonstration of a power, but of course drills conducted just on the border with Georgia are designed to cause a serious provocation,” Chemia told The Messenger on June 29. The analyst also condemned the rhetoric of the Georgian authorities, who had stated that Georgia was ready to answer Russian aggression. “It’s one of the goals of the Kremlin to provoke the Georgian authorities to start another war, and as we can see our Government has become more and more unpredictable, so this danger [of being provoked into war] is quite real,” said the analyst.

Chemia also considers that the exercises are a message to the USA as well. “It’s not a coincidence that the exercises will finish on July 6, when the Obama-Medvedev meeting is scheduled. Moscow wants to impress the American President, to show that it is not a fly Obama can easily kill,” concluded the expert.