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27 Apr, 2009 14:36

Stay away from NATO drills in Georgia – Russia

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that “Russia will not take part in NATO drills in Georgia, and doesn’t advise other countries to do this either." Some of them have already stepped out of the May exercises.

Lavrov believes the upcoming NATO-led military exercises in Georgia could encourage the country’s regime to carry out new attacks.

“We are convinced, and are telling all our partners, that it is dangerous to appease the current Georgian regime, which has in no way abandoned its attempts to solve its problems via militarization and the use of force,” Lavrov told reporters after talks with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.

“We believe that these exercises are harmful under the present conditions,” he said. Russia will not send observers to monitor the exercises.

Lavrov also pointed out that instead of organizing drills in the country, it is necessary to make Tbilisi fulfill its obligations according to the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan.

Last week, the Russian permanent representative at NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, warned about possible provocations against NATO servicemen during the upcoming drills in Georgia.

The NATO-led exercises are scheduled for May, 6 through June 1.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan announced it would not participate in the NATO-led exercise. According to Kazakh Defense Minister Danial Akhmetov, this is the country’s final decision.

Meanwhile, the Blic newspaper in Belgrade reports that Serbia won’t take part in the drills either.

The paper was quoting an unnamed source in the country’s Foreign Ministry, which also said the Russian ambassador has already been informed about the decision. “Taking part in military exercises, which take place in a conflict region, are not a necessity for our defense system,” the source noted.

Remember what happened after previous drills! – Abkhazia

The Abkhazian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday that it was surprised “by a lack of reaction on the part of the international community." The Ministry warns that the community is “watching passively the continuing efforts to arm and train Georgia, thus implanting a militaristic spirit in its army."

Abkhazia sees the upcoming exercises as “a clearly biased political action, which continues the unproductive policy of destabilization in the region."

“Obviously, it should be reiterated that the events of August 2008 occurred immediately after a similar joint drill,” the statement reads.

Russia recognized Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence in August 2008, following the conflict between the latter republic and Georgia.

Angry replies from Georgia

Lavrov’s statements were followed by criticism from Georgian Parliament Speaker David Bakradze.

“Russia is an invader, and a country that violates international law,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

“Its armed forces are stationed in the territory of a neighboring country as invaders. That is why the foreign minister of such a country has no moral or political right to tell anyone what to do,” Bakradze said.

He also said that the Russian foreign minister’s remarks come as “a classic follow-up to Soviet diplomacy principles, when an attack was considered the best form of defense”.

‘Russia, this is not the end of the world!’

NATO says the Cooperative Longbow 09/Cooperative Lancer 09 command-and-staff exercises will not feature light or heavy weaponry. The aim of the drills is set as ”improving interoperability between NATO and partner countries, within the framework of Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative programs”.

In response to Russian criticism, the Western military alliance has said the drills were planned before the Russia-Georgia conflict, and that the exercise is open to all ally states, including Russia.

Ria Novosti news agency reports that a source at the NATO headquarters in Brussels said the planned exercises are “not the end of the world” and that “no one is being forced” to participate," adding that “Russia is overreacting."