Diplomatic Standoff over Georgia Heads to Kyiv, Dushanbe
The diplomatic standoff over Moscow's conflict with Tbilisi looks set to move to two other capitals today, amid Western condemnation of Russia's recognition of Georgia's two rebel regions.
Britain's foreign secretary is visiting the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to try and build a coalition to counter what he's called Russia's aggression in Georgia.
Britain has been one of the most vocal critics of Russia since Moscow began its incursion into Georgia earlier this month.
After Moscow recognized Georgia's two breakaway regions on August 26, David Miliband led Western rejection of the move, calling it "unjustifiable and unacceptable."
The British foreign secretary said he would use his trip to Ukraine today to "ensure the widest possible coalition" against Russia's "aggression."
Miliband will meet Ukraine's leadership, notably President Viktor Yushchenko, who today branded Russia's move as unacceptable and one that threatened security in the former Soviet Union.
Ukraine, like Georgia, has angered Russia with its NATO aspirations.
Former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko says the Georgian situation also carries risks for Ukraine, where many fear Crimea, with its ethnic Russian majority, could be the next flashpoint.
"Absolutely, there are always risks as the conflict is very close to Ukraine, and we have to show adequate vigilance in this regard and preclude any possible provocative actions as regards Ukraine," Zlenko told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. "I won't draw parallels here, as these are absolutely different things. Ukraine is an independent, free, peace-loving country which will never resort to any aggressive means. Crimea is an integral part of an independent Ukraine."
While Britain looks east, Russia in turn is looking to China to bolster support in the stand-off.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is due to meet his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, today.
The meeting comes on the eve of a regional security summit that China says could raise the issue of South Ossetia.
Until now, Beijing has avoided strong comment on the conflict.
So any statement from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Dushanbe would highlight the divide between Georgia and its Western partners on the one hand and Russia and China on the other.
Western powers have almost unanimously condemned Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent countries, while Georgia announced today that it has recalled all but two of its diplomats from Moscow in response.
U.S. President George W. Bush called on Moscow to reconsider what he called its "irresponsible decision." U.S. presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, have both condemned Russia's decision.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled out the Russian move being accepted by the United Nations, saying the international community will continue to consider South Ossetia and Abkhazia as belonging to Georgia.
The European Union has said it will examine the "consequences" of Russia's decision and will hold an emergency summit on the issue on September 1.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Medvedev today that the presence of Russian troops in parts of Georgia is a grave violation of the cease-fire deal between the countries.
Berlin and Moscow issued separate statements after the two leaders spoke by telephone at Merkel's initiative.
The Kremlin statement said Medvedev had assured Merkel that he remained committed to the cease-fire with Georgia.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said today that Russia might have its eye on other neighbouring countries such as Ukraine and Moldova. Asked on Europe 1 radio whether Russia would now regularly choose to confront the West rather than cooperate with it, Kouchner said: "That is not impossible."
"I repeat that it is very dangerous, and there are other objectives that one can suppose are objectives for Russia, in particular the Crimea, Ukraine and Moldova," said Kouchner, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency.
With talk of a new Cold War brewing, Medvedev on August 26 said he was not afraid of that prospect, though he was not seeking it either.
He also went on a media offensive, giving interviews to several Western media outlets, and writing an article setting out Moscow's position in today's "Financial Times."
In it, he defended Moscow's decision to send in troops to Georgia and likened Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to a madman for attempting to retake South Ossetia by force.
And he said he had no other choice but to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia after Western countries earlier this year recognized Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia, despite Russia's objections.
In international relations, he wrote, "you cannot have one rule for some, and another rule for others."
So far, however, no other country has said it will follow Russia's lead and recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
On August 7, fighting broke out in South Ossetia between Georgian forces and South Ossetia fighters. Russia launched a counterattack, expelling Georgian troops from the breakaway province.
Humanitarian Aid Arrives
Meanwhile, in Georgia itself, a U.S. Coast Guard ship carrying humanitarian aid has arrived on the country's Black Sea coast, backing down from docking in a Russian-patrolled port.
The cutter "Dallas" had been due in Poti, where Russian troops are manning checkpoints since pushing into Georgia proper earlier this month. Instead, it docked 80 kilometers south in Batumi.
The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi originally said the "Dallas" would be joined in Poti by a U.S. warship, the "USS McFaul," which docked in Batumi on August 24. But the embassy said late on August 26 that the plan had changed.
"This decision was taken at the highest level of the Pentagon," a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman told Reuters.
Medvedev has accused Washington of delivering weapons to Georgia by sea, but made clear Russian ships would not obstruct the operation.
"What the Americans call humanitarian cargoes -- of course, they are bringing in weapons," he told the BBC in an interview on August 26, adding: "We're not trying to prevent it."
Latest from Georgia
Latest from Tajikistan
We would like to hear your opinion about the new site. Tell us what you like, and what you don't like in an email and send it to: email@example.com