US military planes began delivering aid to Georgia as President George W. Bush announced that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would visit Tbilisi. Meanwhile, Russian troops are expected to withdraw from Gori on Thursday.
US military planes began delivering aid to Georgia as Washington stepped up support for a shaky ceasefire with Russian troops around the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
A U.S. C-17 military aircraft carrying supplies arrived in Georgia and a second flight was planned for Thursday.
Amid fears that a fragile ceasefire between Russia and Georgia would not hold, US President George W. Bush issued a warning to Moscow Wednesday and announced that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would be heading to Georgia to show Washington’s support for the Georgian government.
Flanked by Rice on the White House lawn, Bush announced that he was sending his secretary of state to France to confer with French President Nicolas Sarkozy before heading to Georgia to “personally confer America’s unwavering support for Georgia’s democratically elected government.”
France holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and Sarkozy has played a major role in securing a ceasefire between Russia and Georgia to stem the conflict over South Ossetia. On Tuesday, Sarkozy capped a day-long diplomatic shuffle between Russia and Georgia with a ceasefire agreement approved by Moscow and Tbilisi.
But with both sides trading accusations about the intent and implementation of the truce deal, Bush called on Russia to respect Georgia’s territorial sovereignty and reiterated that “Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis.”
Noting that Washington had received reports of Russian military actions that were “inconsistent” with Moscow's statements, Bush said it “raised serious questions” about Russia’s intentions in Georgia and the region.
“These actions have substantially damaged Russia's standing in the world,” he added. “And these actions jeopardize Russia's relations with the United States and Europe.”
Responding to his comments, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the US must choose between a “real partnership” with Russia or the Georgian government of President Mikheil Saakashvili, which he dubbed “a virtual project.”
Russian convoy on Gori-Tbilisi road sparks panic
A day after the ceasefire agreement, tensions remained high in the region amid reports of looting and Russian troop movements in Georgia.
International attention focused on the strategic Georgian city of Gori, which had served as a launchpad for Georgian military operations into the separatist province of South Ossetia at the start of the conflagration last week. Georgian troops withdrew from the city on Monday.
On Wednesday, FRANCE 24 reporters saw a convoy of Russian military vehicles heading toward Tbilisi on the road linking Gori to the Georgian capital. The convoy movement sparked fears that Russian troops could be heading for the Georgian capital.
But Russian and Georgian officials denied the convoy was bound for Tbilisi. Moscow rejected claims that its troops had advanced on Tblisi or looted Gori.
Reporting from the Gori-Tbilisi road, FRANCE 24’s Timothy Grucza, who earlier shot images of the Russian vehicles advancing on the route, said the convoy had since stopped and pulled off to the side of the road.
Grucza said he managed to get a look inside some of the vehicles and saw equipment such as generators and tents stacked up. “It looks like if they want to settle in, they can do so for a long time,” he said, referring to the Russian troops.
A senior Georgian official however told the AFP that Russian troops would pull out of Gori Thursday, whereupon Georgian police would resume their duties in the birthplace of former Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin.
Two spy drones ‘shot down over South Ossetia’
On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had shot down two Georgian spy drones over the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told the Reuters news service one drone was shot down Tuesday night and the other early Wednesday.
The presence of Georgian spy drones over the separatist province, the spokesman said, was an indication that despite its assurances, Georgia had not ended all military activity in the region.
Date created : 2008-08-14