Georgia warns Russia against sending more troops to S.Ossetia

Georgia Materials 15 May 2008 22:59 (UTC +04:00)

Georgia's foreign minister said on Thursday that the country would regard any increase in Russian peacekeepers in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia as encroachment on national sovereignty, the RIA Novosti reported.

Last month Russia increased its peacekeeping contingent in another Georgian rebel region, Abkhazia, from 2,000 to 3,000. Tbilisi has accused Russia of trying to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"If a decision is made to introduce an additional peacekeeping contingent into the zone of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, it will be regarded as gross encroachment on Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Yekaterina Tkeshelashvili said.

"The international community has made unequivocal statements with regard to Russia and urged it to refrain from steps that could further aggravate the complex situation in Georgia's conflict areas," she said.

In response to a report from Russia's Defense Ministry, Georgia's first deputy defense minister said on Thursday the country will continue to supply its armed forces with modern arms and equipment until they become the strongest in the region.

Batu Kutelia dismissed the Russian report on the status of Georgia's armed forces. "That information is obsolete. The Georgian Armed Forces have since acquired modern weapons, and our [foreign] partners have been helping us," he said.

On Wednesday, Georgia announced its withdrawal from a 1995 CIS unified air defense agreement signed by a number of former Soviet republics, including Russia.

The move came amid rising military tensions between Russia and Georgia over the Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia has said that Georgia is planning a military operation in the republics, while the international community has expressed concern over Russia's buildup of peacekeeping troops in the disputed areas.

Georgia had previously withdrawn from the CIS Defense Ministers Council, although it formally remained in the CIS unified air defense system.

Analysts said Tbilisi's withdrawal from the agreement was part of its efforts to move closer to NATO and away from the CIS.