Saakashvili slams 'crocodile' Russia in TV phone-in

25th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Tuesday compared Russia to a "crocodile" that was ready to "swallow" his country amid the continuing political dispute between the ex-Soviet neighbours.

Speaking during a lengthy televised phone-in show, Saakashvili slammed what he called the "occupation" of two Russian-backed rebel regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Moscow recognised as independent states after the war between the two countries in 2008.

He accused Russia of having "a political mentality on the level of a reptile, like a crocodile ready to swallow you".

"Wild barbarians have invaded our lands," he said.

In comments likely to anger the Kremlin, he also linked the suicide attack on Moscow's Domodedovo airport on Monday to Russia's policies in the Caucasus.

He said that Moscow's support for separatist rebels in Georgia had encouraged renewed insurgency in Russia's troubled Northern Caucasus, where the Domodedovo attackers are suspected to have originated.

"You know, there is the boomerang principle," he said.

Years of rising tensions between Moscow and the Western-backed Saakashvili government erupted into war when Russia sent troops into South Ossetia in 2008 to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake control over the rebel region.

During the two-and-a-half-hour question-and-answer session with citizens across Georgia, Saakashvili was also asked if he had ambitions to remain in power as prime minister after his two-term presidency ends in 2013.

"My major interest is not where I will be, but where my country will be, and I promise that I will always put Georgia's interests above my interests," he said, without giving a direct response to the question.

Georgia last year brought in constitutional reforms which will eventually curb presidential powers and boost the prime minister's role -- changes which the opposition alleges will allow Saakashvili to maintain a dominant political role in the country.

© 2011 AFP

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