Putin criticizes U.S. over South Ossetia

A03886488.jpgMOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sharply criticized the United States on Monday, saying its support for Georgia in the conflict over the separatist region South Ossetia displayed a cynical Cold War mentality.

Putin, shown speaking on state television, singled out the United States, saying Washington was helping to bring Georgian troops from Iraq to fight at home.

In an emotional speech to senior government officials, Putin said some U.S. politicians still had a Cold War mentality.

“It is a shame that some of our partners are not helping us but, essentially, are hindering us,” Putin said. “I mean … the transfer by the United States of a Georgian contingent in Iraq with military transport planes practically to the conflict zone.”

“The very scale of this cynicism is astonishing — the attempt to turn white into black, black into white and to adeptly portray victims of aggression as aggressors and place the responsibility for the consequences of the aggression on the victims.”

A simmering conflict between Russia and its small, former Soviet neighbor erupted last Thursday when Georgia suddenly sent forces to retake South Ossetia, a pro-Russian province that threw off Georgian rule in the 1990s.

Moscow responded with a counter-attack by its vastly bigger forces that drove Georgian troops out of the devastated South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali on Sunday.

Despite international calls for peace, both sides continued to fight on Monday. Georgia shelled Tskhinvali early in the day despite its ceasefire declaration, and Tbilisi said Russian jets had bombed Georgian targets again overnight.

Georgian officials confirmed the return of almost all of Georgia’s 2,000-strong troop contingent from Iraq, and their immediate deployment just south of South Ossetia.

“The major part of our contingent in Iraq has come back,” said Nika Rurua of the Georgian parliament’s defence committee.

“Almost all of them have been sent to the area close to the conflict zone,” he told Reuters.

Putin, a former president, said Russia would take its peacekeeping mission in South Ossetia to a “logical conclusion”.

“Russia, of course, will take its peacekeeping mission to a logical conclusion. We will strive for working relations with all participants of this conflict, and that, of course, includes the Georgian side,” Putin said.

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