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Georgia Accuses Russia of 'Creeping Annexation' in Breakaway Regions


Georgia has accused Russia of endangering regional stability, following Moscow's decision to cooperate more closely with two separatist regions inside Georgia's borders. Georgia brought its case before the U.N. Security Council Wednesday afternoon, where it received strong support from several Western powers. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Tensions have been rising between Russia and Georgia in recent weeks, following Moscow's decision to increase cooperation with the authorities in the secessionist Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Both regions lie on Russia's southern border and have maintained de-facto independence from Georgia since the early 1990s.

Following the closed-door security council meeting, Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Bakhradze said Russia's steps endanger regional peace and stability and infringe on Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. "We have very alarming signs of creeping annexation on the ground. That is creeping annexation of two Georgian regions - Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And the recent decision to establish direct legal links with the local de-facto authorities is also the first time when Russia challenged Georgia's jurisdiction over these two regions," he said.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin denied that Moscow has such aims, saying their actions are within the limits of international law. "Clearly this is not diplomatic recognition or international recognition of Abkhazia or South Ossetia. It does not involve enhanced military cooperation between Russia and those regions," he said.

The other point of contention between the two sides was the shooting down on Sunday of an unmanned, unarmed Georgian surveillance plane over Abkhazia.

The Georgian foreign minister says video of the incident clearly shows a Russian military jet shot down the drone. "We have radar evidence about the route of the aircraft. And second is that we have video footage taken by the UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] itself and the video footage clearly shows MiG-29 military aircraft, and the only country in the region possessing MiG-29 aircraft is Russian Federation," he said.

Russia has denied shooting down the drone. Ambassador Churkin said its flight was a violation of the 1994 cease-fire agreement between Georgia and Abkhazia.

"Obviously it was a provocative military operation which the Abkhazian side had every ground to regard as threatening in the context of increased Georgian military posture, increased Georgian military presence in the Upper Kodori Valley. We simply said it was unacceptable," he said.

In a statement Wednesday, Security Council permanent members France, the United States and Britain, as well as non-member Germany, urged Russia to reverse its decision establishing closer ties with the breakaway regions. Ambassador Churkin said that would not happen.

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