Russia's N.Ossetia wants unification with Georgia's S.Ossetia
The president of the south Russian republic of North Ossetia asked foreign ambassadors on Tuesday for their support in uniting the province with South Ossetia, a neighboring breakaway republic in Georgia. South Ossetia along with Abkhazia, another Georgian breakaway region, are a major source of tension in relations between Georgia and Russia. Georgia accuses Russia of trying to annex the provinces. North Ossetia has close ethnic and historical ties with its southern neighbor. Taimuraz Mamsurov told foreign envoys at a presentation in the Russian Foreign Ministry: "I am asking you to support the justified intent of the Ossetian people to be united." South Ossetia, a small territory with a population of less than 100,000, has been seeking international recognition of its de facto independence from Georgia since the breakup of the Soviet Union. However, Tbilisi is only prepared to grant it broad autonomy. Speaking at a RIA Novosti news conference on Tuesday, Georgian Ambassador to Russia Erosi Kitsmarishvili said the unification of South and North Ossetia's would contravene international law. "On the subject of unification, there is such a thing as international law, which recognizes the territorial integrity of Georgia and is not subject to revision," the diplomat said. Ex-Soviet breakaway regions have stepped up their drive for independence since Kosovo's declaration of independence in February. Georgia's Abkhazia and South Ossetia, along with Moldova's Transdnestr, have since asked Russia's parliament, the UN and other organizations to recognize their independence.
Radar site in south Russia to be put on combat duty in Feb. 2009
Russia's new Voronezh-type radar site in the southern town of Armavir will be put on combat duty in February 2009, the commander of the Russian Space Forces said on Monday. "To be exact, on February 26, the radar will be capable of replacing the missile attack warning sites in Mukachevo [western Ukraine] and Sevastopol [the Crimea]," Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin told journalists. Popovkin said Russia and Ukraine had withdrawn from the agreement on using these radar sites. The agreement, signed in 1997, defined the main principles for using early-warning missile systems located in Ukraine, as well as the operational order for Mukachevo and Sevastopol units and their provision, funding, modernization and reconstruction. "The Space Forces had a choice - whether to repair the obsolete Ukrainian radars or start work to build a new station near Armavir. The decision was made to build the new station so that it could be put on experimental combat duty by December 2008," Popovkin said. With an effective range of 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) the Voronezh-type radar has capabilities similar to its predecessors, the Dnepr and Daryal, which are currently deployed outside Russia, but uses less power and is more environmentally friendly. Washington wants to place 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the neighboring Czech Republic, purportedly to counter a missile threat from Iran and other "rogue" states. Russia has fiercely opposed the plans, saying the European shield would destroy the strategic balance of forces and threaten Russia's national interests. Former president Vladimir Putin proposed last year setting up missile defense information exchange centers in Moscow and Brussels. Russia has also offered the U.S. use of radar stations at Armavir and Gabala in Azerbaijan, as alternatives to the missile shield deployment in Central Europe.
Georgia: Russia 'bolstering forces'
Georgia arrests then releases six Russian peacekeepers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rshR-DK-MLE
Georgia has accused Russia of deploying heavy weapons and extra troops in a separatist region of Georgia. Georgia's interior ministry on Sunday released video footage believed to have been taken by a spy plane that Tblisi claims shows Russian deployment of artillery in Abkhazia. Relations between the two nations have been dangerously strained in recent months by Georgia's drive for NATO membership and Russia's support for separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia - another Georgian region that has de-facto independence. The tensions have raised fears of military conflict in Georgia, whose location on a key oil export route makes it a focus of contention between Moscow and the West.
Georgia also detained five Russian peacekeepers along the administrative border with the Abkhazia region overnight after an accident involving an armoured personnel carrier. Shota Utiashvili, Georgian interior ministry official, said that the five peacekeeping officials were detained on Sunday when their armoured personnel carrier collided with a Georgian woman's car, in the town of Zugdidi. Utiashvili said that the peacekeepers were later released. Alexander Diordiev, a Russian peacekeeping official, confirmed the detention of the Russian soldiers but denied that there had been any sort of a collision. "This is the latest attempt by the Georgians to discredit Russian peacekeepers. The police provoked our peacekeepers with their actions," Diordiev said. Russia accused Georgia on Friday of supporting armed rebels in southern Russia. Georgia said it would block negotiations on a Russian entry to the World Trade Organisation unless Moscow reversed last month's decision to strengthen ties with the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Georgia condemns Russian actions
Georgia has shown the BBC footage which it says proves Russian troops are deploying heavy military hardware in the breakaway region of Abkhazia. An interior ministry official in Tbilisi said the video footage was from an unmanned Georgian spy plane. He said it proved the Russians were a fighting force, not just peacekeepers. Moscow strongly denies the claim. Tensions remain high between Moscow and Tbilisi over Abkhazia and another breakaway region, South Ossetia. The two territories are controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Last month, Russia moved hundreds of paratroopers into Abkhazia, insisting they were just peacekeepers.
The footage was shown to the BBC by Georgian interior ministry official Shota Utiashvili. He also said it was essential for Georgia to continue send its spy planes, or drones, for intelligence gathering missions in Abkhazia to assess the potential risk. "We think that Georgia, especially at a time when we have confirmed reports of massive military deployments from the Russians, and ultimatums presented again by the Russians and the Abkhaz, we have the right to know what's going on there, to be ready," Mr Utiashvili said. The Abkhaz separatists say they have shot down seven Georgian drones in recent months, although Tbilisi insists that only one of the planes has been downed. Last month, Georgia accused Russia of shooting down its drone - a claim denied by the Kremlin. Georgia's pro-Western authorities believe that Russia is fuelling the separatist conflict to maintain its influence in Abkhazia and damage Georgian hopes of joining Nato, the BBC's Matthew Collin in Tbilisi says.
Incident with peacekeepers in Georgia a provocation - command
The incident with Russian peacekeepers detained in western Georgia is a provocation, an aide to the Collective Peacekeeping Force commander in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone said on Sunday. Alexander Diordiyev said Russian peacekeepers were redeploying hardware in the southern security zone near the village of Urta on the night of May 17-18 when Georgian law-enforcement officers blocked the road to the peacekeepers' armored personnel carrier and fuel tanker truck. Soon after that, a damaged Volga car approached the scene and the Georgian police claimed that the car had been damaged by the Russian peacekeepers, Diordiyev said, adding that force was used against the peacekeepers. The Russian peacekeepers were released several hours after the incident. Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another rebel province, broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and some 3,000 in Georgian-South Ossetian hostilities. Georgia is looking to regain control over the two de facto independent republics, and accuses Russia of trying to annex them.