Monday, Nov 24, 2008
Shots fired close to the Georgian and Polish presidents’ motorcade on South Ossetia’s de facto border with Georgia on Sunday were a “provocation”, Russia’s foreign minister said.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was reported as saying that Russian forces had opened fire on the motorcade.
“This is a clear provocation,” Sergei Lavrov, who is accompanying the Russian president on his current Latin American trip, told reporters in the Peruvian capital, Lima.
Lavrov said it was not the first time Georgia had done such a thing. “They arrange provocations and then blame Russia,” he said.
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“Inviting a president for a celebration in Tbilisi and taking him in a car to a different state – is this not a provocation?” Lavrov said, adding that, “There was no shooting from the Russian or South Ossetian side.”
Polish President Lech Kaczynski was invited to Georgia for the fifth anniversary of the “rose revolution” that brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power.
Speaking after the “shooting” incident he said, as quoted by Polish media, that he and the Georgian leader had heard machine-gun fire close to where they stood and appealed to the European Union to draw “the proper conclusions.” He also added that he was unable to tell if the shots were aimed at them or in the air.
South Ossetia has also strongly denied that its forces fired shots.
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August after Georgian forces attacked breakaway South Ossetia in a bid to bring it under central control. Russia later recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another pro-Russian breakaway Georgian province, as independent states.
Moscow has since withdrawn troops from undisputed Georgian territory, and an EU mission is monitoring a ceasefire in the area. Shootings and attacks are frequently reported in the region, with Georgia and South Ossetia blaming each other for the outbreaks of violence.
Lavrov also said such “provocations” could be designed to thwart further Caucasus security talks due in Geneva in mid-December. “If the goal is to undermine the discussions, this could be achieved by staging such provocations,” he said.
This article was posted: Monday, November 24, 2008 at 4:50 am