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Status quo not possible: Moscow

Vladimir Radyuhin

Russian peacekeepers an occupational force: Georgia

MOSCOW: “The status quo in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is no longer possible,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who brokered peace settlement in the Caucasus crisis, will now go to Tbilisi to secure President Mikheil Saakashvili’s agreement to the peace terms negotiated in Moscow.

As the peace plan was presented in Moscow Mr. Saakashvili in Tbilisi announced Georgia’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States and repudiation of peacekeeping agreements with Russia regarding South Ossetia and Abkhazia signed in the 1990s. He declared the Russian peacekeepers an “occupational force.”

Russia sent troops to South Ossetia last Friday to stop Georgia’s massive offensive against its breakaway territory in which some 2,000 civilians and about 20 Russian peacekeepers were killed. In five days of fighting the Russian forces recaptured the regional capital Tskhinvali, pushed back Georgian troops, and largely destroyed Georgia’s military infrastructure in air raids deep inside its territory.

In Abkhazia, the other breakaway territory of Georgia, separatist forces launched a military offensive on Tuesday to oust Georgian troops out of a demilitarized zone on the border with Georgia.

On Monday night Russian paratroopers deployed in Abkhazia a day earlier carried out raids deep inside Georgian territory to destroy military bases from where Georgia could sent reinforcements to its troops sealed off in Abkhazia. The Russian military said they were not taking part in the Abkhaz assault on the Georgian forces.

U.S. criticised

Russia has accused the U.S. of inspiring Georgia’s foiled offensive in the breakaway territory of South Ossetia and helping prepare for it.

“The invasion plan was rehearsed and perfected during Georgian-American war games in Georgia,” said Deputy Chief of Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces, General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, at a press conference on Tuesday.

About 1,000 U.S. troops took part in large-scale military exercises with the Georgian military held recently in the area from where Georgia began its offensive to regain control over South Ossetia last Thursday, he said. Earlier, Russia’s envoy to the U.N. accused Washington of giving a go-ahead for Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia.

“It is hard to imagine that Georgia could dare to launch its aggression against South Ossetia without a nod from abroad,” said Vitaly Churkin, adding: “We hate to think that the U.S. gave a green light for the assault.”

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