Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili called on the U.S. and the European Union Tuesday to send a “clear message” to Russia to help prevent a repeat of last year’s war between Moscow and Tbilisi.
“There is a risk” of renewed conflict between the ex-Soviet states turned foes as they prepare to mark the Aug. 7 anniversary of the outbreak of the war, Saakashvili told French radio station RTL.
“The Russians are exerting constant pressure,” he said, speaking in French.
“The latest [Russian military] maneuvers are worrying. They refuse to respond to calls from European observers and unfortunately the media in Moscow are announcing a situation of imminent conflict,” he said.
“Despite all that, I am confident that Europe and the United States will send a clear message” to Moscow, he said, adding that Georgia would do all in its power to prevent fresh violence.
“We ourselves would never start any conflict with the Russians but we will resist their aggression,” Saakashvili said. “Russian troops have been in our country for 16 years, they don’t want us to remain independent.”
Russia for its part Tuesday accused Georgia of preparing a series of provocations on its de-facto border with breakaway South Ossetia ahead of the anniversary of the war.
“According to our information, the Georgian leadership is organizing various ‘events’ on the border with South Ossetia for the anniversary of August 2008,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said.
“They have a clearly provocative character,” he said.
The Russian defense ministry had warned at the weekend that the military reserved the right to hit back with force if Tbilisi continued carrying out “provocations” in the area.
The war last year erupted when an attempt by Georgian military to retake South Ossetia was rebuffed by Russia. Moscow then sent troops and tanks deep into Georgian territory.
After the war, Russian forces mostly withdrew into South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, but Moscow then infuriated the West by recognizing both regions as independent.