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Britain Warns Russia Over Military Operations in Georgia

  • Stefan Bos

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has warned Russia that its military operations in the former Soviet republic of Georgia undermine its relations with the West. Miliband made the comments after talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Tuesday. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Tblisi.

Speaking to reporters in Tblisi, British Foreign Secretary Miliband accused Moscow of "violating international law" by sending troops into Georgia after violence erupted in breakaway province South Ossetia. He said Russia was "not living up to its word" on previous commitments to withdraw its troops from Georgia.

"And every day that goes by beyond the deadline of noon yesterday [Monday] is a day when the world can see that Russia is not living up to its word. And that is something very serious, not just for Georgia, it is very serious for Russian reputation around the world," he said. "But the political consequences of this are over the more medium term, and Russia is finding itself isolated, even from some of its traditional allies"

Miliband said that Britain was in "full solidarity" with Georgia.

Earlier the NATO military alliance warned Russia that "it cannot continue with business as usual" while Russian troops remain in Georgia.

However on the streets of Tblisi some people have mixed feelings about the NATO statements.

Speaking through an interpreter, 48-year-old musician and political activist Tamriko Kadaidze told VOA News she regrets that the alliance has not given a clear timetable as to when Georgia can join NATO.

"I would like and appreciate that Georgia joins NATO. But as far as I understood they didn't tell anything that Georgia will join NATO," said Kadaidze.

She spoke in front of the Russian Embassy, where Georgians have dumped house hold garbage, ranging from toilet paper and a drum set, to a gas stove. The action is a protest against alleged looting by Russian forces in cities and villages, just outside the Georgian capital.

Residents have expressed growing frustration at what they view as the Russian soldiers attempts to strangle the capital and their unwillingness to quickly withdraw from central Georgia.

This reporter was forced to travel from central Georgia to Tblisi via a slippery mountainous road not even mentioned on maps. No journalists or residents were allowed to enter the devastated town of Gori, which is on the main road towards the Georgian capital. And Russian military helicopters could be seen flying low overhead.

While some Russian troops on the ground left their key positions in central Georgia, the others were still controlling a key road in the city of Hasuri, west of Gori. There has been concern that Russian troops are trying to create a buffer zone between South Ossetia and and the rest of the country.

However 24-year-old Tblisi resident Sandro Muchiori, who has a Russian mother, hopes the tensions will not lead to anti-Russian feelings.

"[I] love Russian people, I like their living style. I like this people. But, you know, their new president [Dmitry] Medvedev and his policies, I don't like. He is a very angry man," said Muchiori.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said the promised withdrawal of Russian troops will be complete by August 22. But he also made clear that some 500 Russian troops would remain in the country to protect the local population of South Ossetia, many of whom have Russian passports.

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