Russia creating 'explosive' atmosphere in Georgia
Russia decided last week to veto the extension of the UN observer mission in Georgia, created in 1993 to oversee a ceasefire between Tbilisi and separatists in Abkhazia.Tbilisi -- Russian moves to force foreign observers from Georgia's rebel regions are creating a "potentially explosive" atmosphere that could spark new fighting, a leading think tank warned in a report Monday.
Russia's veto of the extension of a UN mission in Abkhazia and its efforts to bar an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission from South Ossetia "are blows to regional security that will fuel tensions," said the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
"Russian diplomatic pressure is dismantling the critical international conflict resolution machinery in Georgia, leaving the region facing a potentially explosive situation in which even a small incident could spark new fighting," said the group.
The ICG urged Moscow to rethink its policy of refusing international organisations access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia unless they followed Russia's lead in recognising the regions as independent states.
"Russia's actions have created a hugely hazardous atmosphere," ICG's Caucasus project director Lawrence Sheets said in the statement.
"Moscow needs to review its policy and work for a reasonable compromise allowing the UN and (OSCE) monitors to continue their important work."
The group called on Russia to abide by a European Union-brokered ceasefire by withdrawing its troops to positions held prior to last year's war with Georgia and by allowing an EU monitoring mission access to rebel regions.
Britain, France, Germany and the United States last week condemned Russia's decision to veto the extension of the UN observer mission in Georgia, created in 1993 to oversee a ceasefire between Tbilisi and separatists in Abkhazia.
The OSCE's mission in South Ossetia expires on June 30 and some OSCE members have accused Russia of impeding talks on its extension with its insistence on recognition for South Ossetia independence.
Russia sent troops deep into Georgia in August 2008 to beat back a Georgian military attempt to retake South Ossetia, a territory which had received extensive backing from Moscow for years.
Russian forces later mostly withdrew to within South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where Moscow has since installed thousands of troops.
Areas along Georgia's de facto borders with the rebel regions remain tense and on Monday the EU condemned a "deliberate attack" on its ceasefire monitors that killed a Georgian driver accompanying one of its patrols near Abkhazia.
The road blast on Sunday killed a Georgian driver and injured a doctor travelling in a medical vehicle accompanying an EU patrol. The EU vehicle was slightly damaged but monitors were not injured.