Russia’s parliament has backed a motion urging the president to recognise the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Both houses voted unanimously in favour of the non-binding motion, which analysts say could help President Dmitry Medvedev in talks with the West.
The UK, Germany and Italy were among the nations expressing concern that the vote would further raise tensions.
The (rather unsurprising) move comes as the US and NATO “[step] up pressure” on Moscow to pull out of the territory it still holds in “Georgia proper.”
US destroyer carrying relief supplies arrived at a Black Sea port in Georgia, a sign of US support that provided a conspicuous display of NATO military might. The USS McFaul dropped anchor off Batumi, 50 kilometres south of the Russian-occupied port of Poti, the first of three ships carrying aid to help Georgia deal with about 100,000 displaced people.
A Russian general accused NATO countries at the weekend of using humanitarian aid as “cover” for a build-up of naval forces in the Black Sea, heightening tension. Russia withdrew tanks, artillery and hundreds of troops from their most advanced positions in Georgia on Friday, saying it had fulfilled all obligations.
But Russian troops still control access to Poti, south of the Moscow-backed rebel region of Abkhazia, and have set up other checkpoints around South Ossetia, where the conflict began. The peace plan negotiated by France has been interpreted differently by Russia and the West, with Russia saying it has the right to leave peacekeepers deep inside Georgia.
Indeed, a number of news services are reporting a “tense standoff” between Georgian and South Ossetian forces over the village of Mosabruni:
Georgian and South Ossetian forces were in a tense stand-off on Monday over control of a disputed village on the edge of the breakaway region, according to Georgian and separatist officials.
Georgian and Russian troops fought a brief war in the region earlier this month and are now observing a fragile ceasefire.
Georgian officials said the village of Mosabruni was not part of separatist-controlled territory and alleged the separatists were planning a provocation against Georgian special forces who had been deployed there.
The separatist administration said the village was within South Ossetia and the Georgian forces were there unlawfully. It accused Tbilisi of massing armed men in preparation for an attack.
“According to our information, South Ossetian militias want to take this village. Our forces got the order not to shoot, but if Ossetians start shooting they will have to return fire,” Kakha Lomaia, Secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council, told Reuters.
Lomaia said the atmosphere in the majority Georgian-populated village was “very tense”. He declined to say exactly when Georgian forces had returned there.
For good measure, the vice president’s coming to town.
… This has been your friendly reminder that it isn’t safe to go back to ignoring the Caucasuses, and that it certainly “isn’t over” when the fat Cheney sings.