Kremlin announces that South Ossetia will join 'one united Russian state'
Tony Halpin in Moscow
The Kremlin moved swiftly to tighten its grip on Georgia’s breakaway regions
yesterday as South Ossetia announced that it would soon become part of
Russia, which will open military bases in the province under an agreement to
be signed on Tuesday.
Tarzan Kokoity, the province’s Deputy Speaker of parliament, announced that
South Ossetia would be absorbed into Russia soon so that its people could
live in “one united Russian state” with their ethnic kin in North Ossetia.
The declaration came only three days after Russia defied international
criticism and recognised South Ossetia and Georgia’s other separatist region
of Abkhazia as independent states. Eduard Kokoity, South Ossetia’s leader,
agreed that it would form part of Russia within “several years” during talks
with Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian President, in Moscow.
The disclosure will expose Russia to accusations that it is annexing land
regarded internationally as part of Georgia. Until now, the Kremlin has
insisted that its troops intervened solely to protect South Ossetia and
Abkhazia from Georgian “aggression”.
Interfax news quoted an unidentified Russian official as saying that Moscow
also planned to establish two bases in Abkhazia. Sergei Shamba, Abkhazia’s
Foreign Minister, said that an agreement on military co-operation would be
signed within a month.
The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that agreements on “peace, co-operation
and mutual assistance with Abkhazia and South Ossetia” were being prepared
on the orders of President Medvedev. Abkhazia said that it would ask Russia
to represent its interests abroad.
Georgia announced that it was recalling all diplomatic staff from its embassy
in Moscow in protest at the continued Russian occupation of its land in
defiance of a ceasefire agreement brokered by President Sarkozy of France.
The parliament in Tbilisi declared Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be under
Gigi Tsereteli, the Vice-Speaker, dismissed the threat of South Ossetia
becoming part of Russia, saying: “The world has already become different and
Russia will not long be able to occupy sovereign Georgian territory.
“The regimes of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should think about the fact that if
they become part of Russia, they will be assimilated, and in this way they
Lado Gurgenidze, the Prime Minister of Georgia, scrapped agreements that had
permitted Russian peacekeepers to operate in the two regions after wars in
the early 1990s. He called for their replacement by international troops.
Vyacheslav Kovalenko, Moscow’s Ambassador to Georgia, described Tbilisi’s
decision to sever relations as “a step towards further escalation of
tensions with Russia and the desire to drive the situation into an even
Russia attacked the G7 after the United States, Britain, France, Germany,
Italy, Canada and Japan condemned its “excessive use of military force in
Georgia”. In a joint statement, they had called on Russia to “implement in
full” the French ceasefire agreement.
The Foreign Ministry said that the G7 was “justifying Georgian acts of
aggression” and insisted that Moscow had met its obligations under the
Having been rebuffed on Thursday by China and four Central Asian states,
Russia will seek support next week from the Collective Security Treaty
Organisation (CSTO) for its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The
CSTO comprises Russia and the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The signing of the military agreement with South Ossetia will take place the
day after an emergency summit of European Union leaders to discuss the
crisis. The French presidency of the EU said that sanctions against Russia
were not being considered, contradicting an earlier statement by Bernard
Kouchner, the Foreign Minister.
Russia told the EU that any sanctions would be damaging to both sides. Andrei
Nesterenko, a Foreign Ministry official, said: “We hope that common sense
will prevail over emotions and that EU leaders will find the strength to
reject a one-sided assessment of the conflict . . . Neither party needs the
confrontation towards which some countries are being energetically pushed by
Russia also lashed out at Nato, saying that it had “no moral right” to pass
judgment on the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Foreign
Ministry said: “Further sliding to confrontation with Russia and attempts to
put pressure on us are unacceptable, as they can entail irreversible
consequences in the military-political climate and in stability on the
The US confirmed that the flagship of its Sixth Fleet, the USS Mount Whitney,
would deliver aid to Georgia next week. Two other warships are moored off
Georgia’s Black Sea port of Batumi, and Russia has ordered its fleet to take
Mr Medvedev has accused the US of shipping weapons to Georgia along with aid,
a claim dismissed as “ridiculous” by the White House.