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7 Sep, 2008 12:26

Russian regions pledge support for South Ossetia

Regional leaders in Russia have promised to support South Ossetia as it struggles to recover from the war with Georgia. Governors made their pledge at a State Council meeting chaired by Dmitry Medvedev. The President sai

Medvedev told the State Council meeting that his government had acted responsibly.

“There isn’t a single country in the world that would tolerate its citizens and peacekeepers being killed. Russia was obliged to save these people”.

At the Moscow meeting, the government’s position was backed by regional leaders.

The Republic of Tatarstan’s President, Mentimir Shaimiyev, said recent events showed that ethnic conflicts cannot be solved by force.

“It has already led to the collapse of Yugoslavia, now Georgia. These issues cannot be neglected and put on hold”, Shaimiyev said.

The regions are also offering help to South Ossetia so it can recover. Some are drawing up agreements on cooperation with what they call the world’s youngest country.

At the beginning of Saturday’s meeting Medvedev made his position clear.  He said ‘war’ was the only way to describe the crisis in South Ossetia.

The president went on to say that Moscow was prepared for criticism from some quarters in the West after it recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“There are those who are trying to exert political pressure on Russia. This is unacceptable. This pressure will bring no result. I want to make it clear that confrontation is not our choice. We are prepared for co-operative relations based on international law,” Medvedev said.

The newly-independent republics in the Caucasus are now hopeful they will get their long-awaited chance to present their cases internationally. Abkhazian President Sergey Bagapsh said his nation was no different to any other, saying Abkhazians wanted ‘to build relations with rest of the world’.

“All these years that we're begging the EU, the Council of Europe, all possible committees, the UN Security Council to simply give us a word, to listen to us, just to let us have a chance to explain who these Abkhaz and Ossetian people are. To explain we're not a bunch of weird people with beards and rifles. We're civilised people. We want to live in a civilized country and to build relations with the rest of the world,” Bagapsh said.
Commenting on NATO’s massive support for Georgia – mainly by sending warships full of humanitarian aid to the Black Sea, Medvedev said it would be interesting to see what NATO’s reaction would be if Russia sent its warships to the Caribbean to help the nations hit by the recent hurricane.

“We didn’t get a word of support from those who, in similar circumstances, were speaking lots about freedom of choice, national dignity and use of force to punish aggressors. Unfortunately these countries continue to arm the Georgian regime under the flag of humanitarian aid,” he said.

Moscow says it is ready to step up security measures to defend the country's interests,