Georgia is preparing for war in its breakaway province of Abkhazia, and Russia will retaliate if it launches an attack, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday at a meeting with top EU officials in Luxembourg, the dpa reported.
" Russia is not preparing for war, but we can cite a number of examples pointing to the fact that the Georgian leadership might be pushing for a resolution of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian secession by force," Lavrov said.
"If Georgia puts in place the threats it has made on a number of occasions about the use of force, we would be forced to take retaliatory measures to protect the lives of our citizens," he said.
But the EU leaders called for calm, with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana saying that the bloc would like to "de-escalate the tension."
Abkhazia and South Ossetia are both Russian-dominated regions of Georgia which fought brief separatist wars in the early 1990s and which still reject Tbilisi's rule.
The Georgian authorities insist that the two regions are its sovereign territory and accuse Moscow of supporting the rebels. Most inhabitants of the two regions hold Russian passports.
In the light of rising tensions between Georgia and its two regions over the past week, Russia decided on Tuesday to send more peacekeeping troops into the breakaway provinces.
That decision was "not wise," even if it was in line with peace agreements, Solana said.
The meeting between Lavrov, Solana, EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, was one in a regular series aimed at improving relations between the EU and Russia.
Lavrov said that he came to the meeting with a large number of documents presenting Russia's view of the deepening crisis in the Caucasus and its legal justification of its stance, which he intended to present to the EU trio.