No trust in current Georgian regime – South Ossetian leader
The Russian Foreign Minister is now in South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinval, for talks with president Kokoity after traveling to Sukhum, capital of Abkhazia, on Sunday.
Lavrov said that he was able to gain first hand knowledge of the condition of the South Ossetian capital, knowing that it had been nearly destroyed after Georgia’s attempts to invade the region last month.
The Foreign Minister also outlined the key goals of the visit, which will include the signing of a range of agreements between Russia and South Ossetia.
“We came here to work out a package of steps aimed to improve our relations. In the coming days we'll sign an agreement on cooperation and friendship followed by a number of deals on specific issues”.
The South Ossetian President said his country appreciates Russia's help and spoke on the short term priorities for his country as an independent state.
“One of our first steps is to strengthen our border with Georgia. We absolutely don't trust the current Georgian regime. Our experience shows that Tbilisi has always violated international agreements both in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and that is particularly true when we talk about modern, so-called 'democratic' Georgia,” Kokoity said.
The next step in developing diplomatic relations with newly independent states will be the visit to Moscow by the Presidents and Foreign Ministers of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where they are expected to meet Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and sign a major agreement on friendship and co-operation.
Meanwhile, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said that discussing the future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the UN Security Council is senseless without the delegates from these new countries.
“I foresee that it would become a major problem for the UN international discussion of the future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia because the US still has not approved to grant visas for Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s delegates to join this discussion and speak out in the UN Security Council,” Lavrov said.
“We also has not seen the OSCE members’ readiness to listen to Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Lavrov added.
“For Russia this deal is done. No decisions involving Abkhazia and South Ossetia or in any way affecting their interests could possibly be taken in the absence of representatives of these countries,” Lavrov pointed out.
The Foreign Ministry in Moscow has said that if the US does not grant visas to the representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, an informal meeting of the EU Security Council could be held in a European country.
Georgia hides the number of war casualties
A source in Russian Defence Ministry says Georgian authorities have suppressed the real number of casualties from the conflict in South Ossetia, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
According to information collected by Russian military intelligence, the casualties of the Georgian army and other security services, including police, could reach as much as 3,000.
“The Georgian leadership tries to hide the real scale of military losses. Our data gathered from various sources indicates that Georgia lost up to 3,000 servicemen and police in attack on South Ossetia,” said a source, also claiming that Georgia's western allies have been aware of the numbers of Georgian casualties.
It must be noted that the latest figures published by Georgian officials are as follows: 372 dead, including 188 civilians, 168 soldiers and 16 police.
These numbers in particular show the desire of the Georgians to claim more civilian than military victims, while Russia has repeatedly denied any strikes on civilians in Georgia. In spite of the fact that Georgia was internationally condemned for being an aggressor in the conflict in South Ossetia, Georgia’s leadership still have vague hopes to win the media war it is waging on Russia.
The source also pointed out that the high number of losses of Georgian army could be explained by the low morale of Georgian troops, and reservist servicemen in particular, claiming that many MIAs had actually fled the battlefield.
“Besides, many Georgian soldiers, who are accounted for as MIA, are deserters,” he said. “Georgian police are still looking for these people, who simply left the battlefield.”
Russia has officially confirmed the loss of 66 killed and at least 340 wounded servicemen.
Russia also claims that Georgia still hold POWs, among which could be crew members of the TU-22 bomber that was shot down by a Ukrainian-made anti-aircraft complex allegedly operated by Ukrainian mercenaries.