August 11, 2008

Russian Foreign Minister, Ukrainian Parliament Speaker Discuss Georgia Crisis

Text of report by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti

Moscow, 11 August: Russian Foreign Minister has told Ukrainian parliament speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk by phone today that Russian Black Sea Fleet ships were off Abkhazia's coast to protect Russians and support peacekeepers, the Russian Foreign Ministry's information and press department said.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said earlier it reserved the right not to allow the Russian Black Sea Fleet's ships, which are now off the Georgian coast, back to Sevastopol [in Ukraine's Crimea, where the fleet is based], because Kiev does not want to be dragged into military conflicts [see "Ukraine warns Russia against using Black See Fleet in Georgia", Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Kiev, in Russian 0903 gmt 10 Aug 08].

On 8 August, Georgia launched a military campaign against South Ossetia, which caused the death of 1,600 civilians. Russia was forced to launch an operation aimed at forcing Georgia into peace.

"Lavrov stressed that the Russian Black Sea Fleet's ships were off the Abkhaz coast to ensure conditions necessary for the protection of Russian citizens in the region, support the Russian peacekeeping contingent and render humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in the conflict zone. The two officials agreed that any issues arising in this connection have to be discussed in the Russian-Ukrainian subcommission on the Black Sea Fleet and based on the existing bilateral agreements," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in the statement.

During the conversation, a frank exchange of opinions took place regarding the situation in South Ossetia.

"The Russian side stressed the need for an urgent withdrawal of Georgian troops from the conflict zone and the conclusion of an accord on non-use of force between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"In the context of the current situation, the problem of risks arising from arms supplies to Georgia was also discussed," the statement said.

Authorities in the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia said earlier that Ukraine had supplied the Georgian army with 40 sniper rifles which were used to fire on Tskhinvali residents. Later, reports emerged that a Russian plane was downed by a Ukrainian missile in Georgia.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said that military-technical cooperation with Georgia was quite legitimate and in line with "friendly relations and international law".

Originally published by RIA Novosti news agency, Moscow, in Russian 2032 11 Aug 08.

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