Russia accuses west of 'bias' over actions in Georgia
Saturday, 30 August 2008

Foreign ministry says it rejects international condemnation of invasion as EU appears to be backing away from sanctions

The Guardian Online

Russia bitterly accused the west of "bias" and "double standards" today, following international criticism of its actions in Georgia, and amid signs that the European Union is backing away from sanctions against Moscow.

Russia's foreign ministry said it rejected criticism from the G7 group of industrialised countries. They had condemned its invasion of Georgia, and its recognition on Tuesday of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
 
"This step is biased and aimed at justifying the aggressive actions of Georgia," the ministry said, adding that the G7 — which includes Britain, France, Germany, the US, Italy, Japan and Canada — had made "baseless assertions about Russia undermining Georgia's territorial integrity."
 
Russia's foreign ministry spokesman, Andrey Nesterenko, went further. He lambasted Nato for "putting pressure" on Russia and said that there could be "irreversible consequences" for stability in Europe. Nato had no "moral right to lecture Russia," he added.
 
The Kremlin's defiant and unapologetic tone comes ahead of a special EU summit in Brussels on Monday, called by France, to discuss the EU's future relations with Russia. On Thursday, France's foreign minister, Bernard Coucher, intimated that sanctions against Moscow would be discussed.
 
Yesterday, though, the EU appeared to be rapidly retreating from this position.
 
Moscow has made clear it will respond to any punitive measures from Brussels, which could include the suspension of a new EU-Russia partnership agreement. "The time to pass sanctions has certainly not come," said a senior diplomat from France, which holds the EU presidency.
 
Analysts in Moscow today said that Russia's leadership was relatively relaxed about the threat of EU sanctions. "I don't think the contemporary west has any means to punish a state that is not quite a rogue state," Yulia Latynina, a commentator with the independent Echo of Moscow radio station told the Guardian.
 
She went on: "The Kremlin didn't take Tbilisi and didn't shoot (Mikheil) Saakashvili. What the west can really do — expelling Russia from the G8 or the World Trade Organisation — isn't important.'
 
She added: "Strategically Putin has increased his personal power and satisfied his personal feeling towards Mr Saakashvili. The war was quite brilliant in its design."
 
Other analysts said they didn't expect Russia to reverse its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite the prospect of international isolation. So far only Belarus had said it will join Russia in recognising Georgia's breakaway states.
 
"I think they are watching very closely to see what will happen at the EU summit on Monday," Grigorii V Golosov, professor at the faculty of political sciences, at the European University of St Petersburg, said. "But I think the Kremlin calculation is that the EU won't react seriously."
 
Putin's interview with CNN on Thursday — in which he blamed the war in Georgia on a plot by Washington to propel John McCain into the White House — was a deliberate tactic, Golosov said. Putin's aim was to promote divisions between the EU and Washington, he added. "This is the old game of the Russian leadership," Golosov remarked.
 
Yesterday Igor Sechin, Russia's deputy prime minister, dismissed a report in the Daily Telegraph that Moscow was preparing to cut oil deliveries to western European. The claims were "nothing but an invention and a gross provocation," Sechin said, adding that such a move would hurt Russian firms.
 
South Ossetian leaders, meanwhile, yesterday said they expected Moscow to eventually absorb the province into the Russian Federation. Russia's president Dmitry Medvedev and the region's pro-Moscow leader Eduard Kokoity held talks on the province's future status this week, said the South Ossetian parliamentary speaker, Znaur Gassiyev.
 
Russia will absorb South Ossetia "in several years" or earlier, a position that was "firmly stated by both leaders", Gassiyev admitted. South Ossetia is expected to sign a treaty on Tuesday allowing Russia to station military bases on the territory.

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