Friday, August 15, 2008
GORI, Georgia (AFP) – Russia and Georgia wrangled over the blockaded city of Gori on Friday as US President George W. Bush accused Russia of using “bullying” tactics in the conflict.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Tbilisi to support the Georgia’s pro-West government and called for changes to a ceasefire accord to protect Georgia.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, meanwhile, made a new statement of support for two regions that have broken from Georgia as he came under pressure during talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Three days after a ceasefire was agreed, Georgian authorities negotiated with Russian commanders for the handover of Gori , where Russian armoured vehicles and tanks have remained even though it is outside the breakaway South Ossetia province — the spark for the conflict.
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“The Gori police chief is in Gori trying to hold negotiations on the handover of the city,” interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told AFP.
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No Russian military forces were visible in the centre of Gori but scores of armoured vehicles were concentrated at a base outside the city, an AFP reporter said. A small number of Russian soldiers and two armoured personnel carriers were spotted in the city centre.
Most of the city’s 50,000 inhabitants have fled. About 300-400 people gathered outside the city’s cathedral to receive humanitarian food aid that handed out by priests.
The United States and Russia have stepped up their wrangling over Georgia and the US president complained of Moscow’s “bullying” as he called on Russia to honour a pledge to withdraw its troops.
“Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century,” he said, adding that Russia had damaged its credibility with the West by its offensive against Georgia.
“Moscow must honor its commitment to withdraw its invading forces from all Georgian territory,” Bush said outside the Oval Office.