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Kremlin: don’t dramatise the situation

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, July 17
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Georgian breakaway region South Ossetia will not affect US-Russian relations, states the Kremlin, as reported by the Russian media on July 15.

According to Russian news agency RIA Novosti Kremlin officials are sure that the US State Department’s condemnation of Medvedev’s visit to Tskhinvali will not affect the “restarting” of US-Russian relations. “The restart is not influenced by statements but practical actions,” said a Kremlin spokesperson quoted by the agency on July 15. The spokesman added that Russia is aware of the US position of supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity. “It’s a confirmation of their [US] position, but we [Russia] have our own position. The situation shouldn’t be dramatised,” he concluded.

The visit of Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev to South Ossetia was not a “step forward in terms of establishing stability in the region,” Ian Kelly, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, said on July 14. Kelly also noted that “the very fact of that visit highlights our [Russia and the US’s] fundamental differences” on the situation around Georgia’s breakaway regions.

Medvedev’s unannounced visit to South Ossetia, during which he met the de facto authorities of the breakaway region and announced the support of Russia for “the new state – South Ossetia” was discussed in the Georgian Parliament on Thursday. Georgian lawmakers adopted a statement condemning Medvedev’s July 13 visit, calling it an “illegal crossing of the Georgian-Russian border.” Medvedev’s visit to South Ossetia was a “step towards the final annexation of the occupied Georgian territories and an attempt to legitimise the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Russian Federation." Georgian MPs appealed to the international community to “give adequate legal assessment to illegal entry of the President of the Russian Federation to occupied Georgian territory.”

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili commented on Medvedev’s visit during his speech in Turkey at the NABUCCO pipeline summit on July 13. “I think what happened [Medvedev’s visit to South Ossetia] will enter the diplomatic history of Russia as the most immoral and shameful precedent in centuries. When the Russian President travelled along the road – I do not know whether he was or was not told about it - he probably passed the deserted settlements which were once home to tens of thousands of ethnic Ossetians and ethnic Georgians, whose houses were bulldozed after Putin’s adventure last year. These will form an immoral and shameful spot for any Russian leader today and in future,” stated Georgian President.

Meanwhile Abkhazia, the other Georgian breakaway province, also hopes to greet the Russian President in the near future. Speaking on the Russian Ekho Moskvy radio station de facto leader of Abkhazia Sergey Baghapsh noted that Abkhazia expects Medvedev to visit Sokhumi as well “because he was in South Ossetia.” Baghapsh noted that this visit depends on Medvedev’s schedule so Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may therefore visit instead. “We will be very glad if this [the visit] happens,” stated Baghapsh on July 15.