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Friday, August 17, 2007

International Team Says Russia Attacked Georgia

Reuters reports:

A plane from Russia dropped the missile which landed in Georgia last week, experts from the United States, Sweden, Latvia and Lithuania said on Wednesday after conducting an investigation at Tbilisi's request. Their report was issued a day before a Russian team was to start its own investigation into the incident, in which the missile landed in a field near a Georgian farming village but did not explode. There were no casualties. The incident reignited feuding between Russia and its pro-Western neighbor. Last year, Russia cut transport, diplomatic and some trade links after a spying row but relations had been improving.

"An unidentified aircraft flew from Russian airspace into Georgian airspace and back again into Russian airspace three times," the eight experts said in their report. "The first in Georgian airspace lasted less than a minute. The final two passes into Georgian airspace lasted significantly longer and the unidentified aircraft went deeper into Georgian airspace." The experts, ranging from independent military analysts to defense ministry employees, identified the missile as the Russian designed KH-58. "The Georgian air force does not possess aircraft equipped with or able to launch KH-58 missiles," their report said.

Georgia wants to join NATO but the alliance's constitution says a country cannot become a member if there are conflicts within its borders, and Tbilisi has two. [LR: In other words, by its actions, Russia is fanning the flames of those conflicts, seeking to keep Georgia out of NATO. This must not stand!] The breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions fought wars against Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Their declarations of independence have not been internationally recognized but Moscow gives them moral and financial support. Russia's Foreign Ministry said Moscow was sending its own investigators, including the head of the Russian air force, to work with Georgian counterparts. "The Russian Foreign Ministry hopes that the upcoming Russian-Georgian cooperation will objectively clear up the circumstances surrounding the incident," the ministry said in a statement.

The Associated Press also has a report. Now, Russia has blocked any action by the U.N. Security Council, in the scum-sucking, cowardly manner of the USSR. Why does Russia fear the truth? Because it's guilty! The world must rally to Georgia's side. It must not treat Putin as it did Hitler, or it will face the same consequences. Georgia is the new Poland!

blocked a U.S. attempt Thursday to have the U.N. Security Council issue a statement on last week's incident involving an unidentified aircraft that flew over Georgian air space and dropped a missile near a village. Georgia has accused Russia of "an act of aggression," saying it has "incontrovertible evidence" that Russian jets launched a missile near the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russia's air force flatly denied its planes crossed into Georgia's air space. But on Wednesday, eight international military experts determined the plane, which flew over Georgian territory on Aug. 6, had come from Russian air space and released the missile.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the council should not take a stand because a high-level Russian military delegation had just arrived in the Georgian capital, Tblisi, for talks with Georgian experts on the incident. "It would be premature for the council to take any kind of stand on this matter," he said.

U.S. deputy ambassador Jackie Sanders said the United States deplores the attack and supports Georgia's call for an emergency meeting of the council. "We thought it was really important that the Security Council make a statement on this issue," she said. "Russia was not prepared today to have a formal statement or press statement. This is an ongoing situation. We intend to pursue it."

The missile incident raised tensions between Georgia and Russia, which have been especially high over the past year. The two countries have long been at odds over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another pro-Russian separatist region, and over Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's repeatedly stated determination to bring Georgia into NATO and the European Union. The international experts agreed with Georgian conclusions that the missile that landed was a Russian-made, anti-radar Raduga Kh-58. Churkin appeared to dismiss this and other investigations. "The Georgian side has gone out of its way to create all sorts of noise around it, and as a result of it all there is a lot of conflicting information, a lot of conflicting evidence and assertions surrounding this incident," he said.

Sanders said the United States will continue to push for closure of the investigation.

"Any of us in the U.N., if we had a missile coming over our borders and planes from unknown places coming over our borders, we would surely hope that the Security Council, which has a responsibility for international peace and security, would address it," she said. She indicated that if Russia continues to block a council meeting, the U.S. will call for a vote to get the incident on the council's agenda.

South Ossetia broke free from Tbilisi in fighting in the mid-1990s. Since then, it has been de-facto independent, led by an internationally unrecognized separatist government. Small clashes sporadically continue to break out, more than a decade after the end of the war. Georgia accuses Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia of backing the separatists, and Saakashvili has vowed to bring the region back under central government control.

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