Friday, Aug 15, 2008
Russia’s General Staff said Thursday it was concerned by the nature of cargoes the United States was airlifting to Georgia, questioning if they were really humanitarian aid.
The U.S. sent two C-17 military planes to Georgia late Wednesday and early Thursday as part of a Pentagon humanitarian mission.
In a statement Wednesday, President George W. Bush said Washington would “use U.S. aircraft, as well as naval forces” to distribute supplies, and demanded Russia withdraw troops from Georgia.
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At a news conference Thursday, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the General Staff, urged the media to press U.S. officials for trustworthy information on the U.S. role in Georgia.
“What is going on there?” he asked. “We, the Russians, are extremely concerned about it.”
“U.S. military transport aircraft are reported to have been airlifting some humanitarian cargoes to Tbilisi airport. Two days ago, reports said we had destroyed the airport,” Nogovitsyn said
Nogovitsyn denied reports by Georgian officials and Western media that Russian troops had blown up Georgia’s Black Sea port of Poti.
“This is not true. We have not been engaged in any military action for two days, only conducting reconnaissance,” he said.
He also denied that Russia had sent tanks into the strategically important Georgian town of Gori, near the South Ossetian border, but said armored vehicles with military personnel were there to take care of ammunition abandoned during the almost weeklong fighting.
“There are a lot of weapons which need to be guarded to prevent them from being stolen and used,” Nogovitsyn said, adding Russian servicemen’s other tasks in the city were to protect the transport communications and evacuate the injured.
He said the Russian military had contacted the city authorities over the issues.
Nogovitsyn said Russia had stopped the buildup of troops in the region, but has not yet set a withdrawal date.
“The withdrawal plan has not been approved yet. The buildup of the units has been suspended,” he said.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier Thursday that Russia could increase its peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia. The country has maintained peacekeepers in Georgia’s separatist regions since the 1990s, when Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away following bloody conflicts.
Asked whether the fighting will influence the pace of Russia’s army modernization, Nogovitsyn said the country would “draw serious conclusions” from the events.
Western nations have strongly criticized Russia for a “disproportionate” use of force in its counterattack against Georgia’s military offensive to regain control of the province, warning it may hamper its international relations.
Moscow has accused the West of bias, saying it had no choice but to reinforce its peacekeepers in the region and protect the civilian population.
This article was posted: Friday, August 15, 2008 at 3:22 am