UN avoids involvement in Russia-Georgia missile dispute
Russian officials are vowing to co-operate with any investigation, while Georgia is asking the United Nations to get involved.
Meanwhile, speaking to a group of students in Tbilisi, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said his country is not looking for direct confrontation with Moscow and that good relations are among its political aims.
“I do want to state we are not in a wartime posture with Russia. We are not planning to fight with Russia. We are ready to defend our country. Our political aim is to have good relations with Russia and our great political aim is to integrate in Euro-Atlantic structures and restore our territorial integrity. We offer the Russian Federation a full and transparent co-operation on issues of defence and we were the first country that, after I came to power, assisted Russia in the provision of the security of its borders,” Mr Saakashvili said.
As the story continues to spiral with the claims made by Georgian officials, it gets more and more confusing for experts on both sides of the Georgian border.
Georgia claims the missile was fired by a Russian jet fighter targeting a radar station close to the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
“It came from the Kazbeky region and went back in the direction of Russian territory. At the moment, I assess that is an act of violation of the country’s border committed by another state,” Vano Merabishvili, the Georgian Minister of Interior, said.
Dmitry Peskov, First Deputy Press Attache to the Russian President
We categorically deny any involvement in these events. These declarations are not based on any reality.
Russian peacekeepers are at a loss.
“On August 6 we detected an unidentified plane, and informed Georgian military staff about the flight and the firing of some object. Within an hour Georgia denied that such an incident occurred. And then 14 hours later they reported a violation of their airspace. In the conflict zone every action should be transparent! You don’t wait for several hours before reporting violations, you do it right away! Why did they deny there was a violation? When our peacekeepers arrived at the scene the warhead had already been destroyed and they could not identify the debris. But the Georgian media had an opportunity to see everything. Why was there such a rush to destroy the evidence?” Yury Vereshchak, South Ossetia Peacekeeping Forces representative, commented.
The missile might’ve failed to detonate but it exploded in a full scale diplomatic row with the Georgian president demanding answers from Kremlin.
“We categorically deny any involvement in these events. These declarations are not based on any reality,” Dmitry Peskov, First Deputy Press Attache to the Russian President, declared.
The Russian envoy to the Joint Control Commission on the settlement of Georgian-Ossetian conflict has told Russia Today that many issues around the missile incident need clarification.
“It has to be thoroughly investigated and before the investigation is complete it would be premature to make any assessments. There are too many questionable facts which surround this incident and make it impossible to draw immediate conclusions,” Yury Popov, Ambassador Extraordinary of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said.
This new scandal comes when it seemed relations between the two countries were getting back to normal after a series of spats. Last year Georgia accused four Russian army officers of spying before expelling them from the country. This triggered a diplomatic row, with Moscow imposing economic sanctions against and deporting a number of Georgians.
The first sign of a possible reconciliation between the two states came with a religious meeting.
Georgia's Patriarch came to Russia for talks with his Russian counterpart. Russia's ambassador returned to Tbilisi and both sides seemed to be ready to restore old ties.
“I am convinced this is Georgian provocation just as talks on the peace process in the region at the Joint Control Commision were about to start. This is provocation against our peace-keepers and Russia in general. Georgians fear that if Kosovo gets independence, then Georgia will loose Abkhaziya and South Ossetiya,” General Yuriy Baluyevsky, Chief of Russian General Staff, said.
Georgia is seeking support from the UN Security Council, the EU and the U.S. The Russian Foreign ministry has already called it a PR campaign. Washington condemned the attack, and called for Russia and Georgia to seek common ground.
Remains of missile allegedly fired by Russian aircraft
“The Georgian side needs this conflict. It draws attention to its policies, to its problems with neighbouring breakaway republics – Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia uses Russia as a bad guy at whom it can always point and rely on the support of the West,” Mikhail Aleksandrov from the Caucasus Department of the CIS Institute explained.
Many experts believe that Georgia is promoting an idea that it's the victim of an evil Russian empire. The next day after the alleged attack Former Foreign minister of Georgia Salome Zurabashvili commented on the incident.
“I do not rule out that the bombardment of the territory near the village of Tsitelubani was a performance staged by the interior minister Vano Merabishvili. Russia might be aggressive towards us, but taking into consideration the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia will never commit such actions. Such schemes are typical for Vano Merabishvili, who always finds something like a Stinger missile, and something else another,” Salome Zurabishvili, Former Foreign Minister of Georgia, commented.
Georgia's interior minister Merabishvili wants Abkhazia and South Ossetiya brought under Georgia’s control as soon as possible and is known for his tough political stance.
In the past he has called for police to kill criminals without hesitation.
He suggested Russian security forces were behind a bizarre grenade attack on the U.S. President George Bush during his visit to Georgia.
He claimed that a network of Russian spies is acting on the territory of the country.
“Georgia has ruined all the positive trends,” Mikhail Aleksandrov stressed.
An act of aggression by Russia, or a staged provocation by Georgia? This incident has certainly fueled the flame of discord that seemed to be dying out.