A growing clamor for action against Russia
Putin accuses US of orchestrating Georgia conflict
Demands for diplomatic action against Russia over its actions in Georgia grew Thursday, while Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States of plotting the recent conflict in Georgia.
"It's not only that the US administration could not restrain the Georgian leadership from this criminal act," Putin said. "The American side effectively armed and trained the Georgian army."
Speaking in an interview with CNN which was also shown on Russian state television, Putin claimed the fighting was triggered by politicians in Washington in the run up to the presidential election.
The former president gave no evidence to support his statements, which he admitted were "conjecture," but said the US action forced Russia's hand.
"The suspicion arises that someone in the United States has specially created this conflict with the aim of to aggravating the situation and to benefit one of the candidates in the struggle for the post of president of the United States," he said at his Black Sea residence in Sochi.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, speaking three days before an emergency European Union summit in Brussels, said that "sanctions are being considered, as well as other means" against Russia.
But Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed such action, saying Kouchner "says a lot of things."
Demands for diplomatic action have grown louder since Moscow formally recognized the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Tuesday. The provinces fueled a brief but bloody Russian-Georgia conflict earlier this month.
Kouchner said the aim of next Monday's extraordinary summit, the first such crisis meeting since the 2003 Iraq war, would be to "draw up a strong statement reflecting our determination not to accept" the situation in Georgia.
At the same time, Georgia's foreign minister called on the UN Security Council Thursday to take action against Russia, alleging it had breached international security by its actions in her country.
At a special meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, Foreign Minister Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili said the Security Council should act under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which deals with non-military and military sanctions to restore peace and security.
"It is not only a threat to international security but a breach of it," Tkeshelashvili said, referring to Russia's military involvement in Georgia and its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The minister also alleged that Russian forces had conducted ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia.
"The territory previously known in Soviet times as South Ossetia is completely cleansed of remnants of the Georgian population," she said. In the buffer zone around the breakaway province, ethnic cleansing was ongoing, she added.
An additional factor
The Permanent Council of the OSCE, the organization's decision-making body, was meeting to discuss recent developments in Georgia and the modalities of sending up to 100 additional observers there.
Moscow's recognition of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was "an additional factor that needs to be taken into account" in finding agreement on the modalities of the observer mission, OSCE spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Poland's President Lech Kaczynski is to meet with the leaders of three Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, to work out a common stance on Georgia for the upcoming EU summit, his chancellery told Radio ZET.
"There is an expectation from the Baltic states that the president in Brussels will present a common stance of the three states -- the three Baltic states and Poland," said Piotr Kownacki, vice-chief of the president's chancellery.
Kaczynski is one of Georgia's strongest supporters in the conflict with Russia.
A build up
Meanwhile, the NATO military alliance said its deployment of four warships in the Black Sea was planned more than a year ago and had nothing to do with the developments in nearby Georgia.
The statement from Brussels followed expressions of concern by Russian officials at what they call a "build up" of NATO ships in the area.
"This deployment is routine in nature and has been planned for over a year, notification of the requirement to transit the Turkish Straits was given in June, well before the current Georgia crisis and is completely unrelated," NATO said.
A NATO spokeswoman stressed that "there is no NATO naval build-up" and that the fleet's exercises with Bulgarian and Romanian ships would be limited to "the Western part of the Black Sea."
The alliance also sought to reassure Russia that its fleet would be stationed in the Black Sea for a maximum of 21 days.