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Dismiss “unlawful” Georgian complaint, Russia asks UN court

Russia urged a UN court Monday to reject a Georgian claim of “ethnic cleansing” against it, saying Tbilisi had sparked a 2008 war with an “unlawful” assault on a rebel area and had no legal standing.

“The applicant state (Georgia), quite unlawfully, sought to impose through the use of brutal military force its own solution to regional problems,” Kirill Gevorgian, director in the Russian foreign ministry’s legal department, told the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“In doing so, Georgia attacked internationally recognised peacekeeping units, acting in gross violation of international humanitarian law,” he said of the five-day war fought over rebel regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“Russia is convinced that in such circumstances the applicant state must not be allowed to benefit from the privilege” of having its complaint considered by the court.

Gevorgian was explaining Russia’s objection to the court’s jurisdiction in a complaint lodged by Georgia in 2008 — four days after the brief war over the two Moscow-backed regions that broke away from Tbilisi’s control in the early 1990s.

In its application, Georgia accuses Russia of a protracted campaign of “ethnic cleansing,” saying its citizens in areas under Moscow’s control were terrorised and subjected to violence, causing some 150,000 to be displaced.

But Russia believes that Georgia adopted an approach under President Mikheil Saakashvilli “to solve problems with South Ossetia and Abkhazia by armed force,” said Gevorgian.

“Those attempts culminated in Georgia unleashing a massive armed attack against the population of South Ossetia and Russian peacekeeping units in breach of Georgia’s obligations under international law.

“The Russian Federation had no other choice but to exercise its inherent right to act in self defence and protect its peacekeepers.”

Moscow has since recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, while Tbilisi and most of the international community insist they are part of Georgian territory.