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Georgia Considers Kremlin Shift on Abkhazia Worrisome


Georgia is accusing Russia of shifting to a more aggressive policy toward several former Soviet republics. Georgia's U.N. ambassador reacted sharply to comments made this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Georgia's U.N. Ambassador Revaz Adamia Wednesday expressed concern about what he called a "serious change" in Russia's position regarding some former Soviet republics.

Adamia was speaking a day after President Vladimir Putin's annual press conference at which he said there is a need to create universal principles for settling unresolved conflicts, in places such as Kosovo and the secessionist Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Mr. Putin said if the Serb province were to be come independent, Russia might withdraw its support for a U.N. plan to preserve the territorial integrity of Georgia. He was quoted as saying, "I do not want to say Russia would immediately recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, but such precedent does exist."

Adamia reacted sharply to Putin's comments. At a U.N. news conference, he suggested the Russian leader was signaling Kremlin's shift to a more aggressive policy toward Georgia, Ukraine, and other states of the former Soviet Union.

"Yes, I do see that there is a serious change toward Georgia, not only to Georgia, it's also to Ukraine; main reason in general for that in general is the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine," he said. "All these guys (in the Kremlin) are a little bit afraid of the positive developments in these countries which can show these revolutions were effective and can be also used in some other countries as well. We can see it in Central Asia certainly. And the serious changes in Uzbekistan, first of all, toward the relationship Georgia, Ukraine. From Russian side, yes, we can see some kind of increased irritation and (anger) toward my country and some other countries in the region as well."

U.N. Security Council diplomats say Russia's policy shift was evident during a meeting on Georgia this week. In a closed-door session, Russian diplomats were said to have renounced their previous support for an international plan, drafted in 2000, for granting autonomy to Abkhazia while maintaining Georgia's sovereignty over the region.

Georgia's ambassador acknowledged Wednesday his country's relationship with Russia is at a low ebb. Pointing to recent disruptions of natural gas supplies in the region, he said leaders of several former Soviet republics are growing wary of the increased attention from the Kremlin.

"I don't believe in coincidences. When all this happens together, all this gas supply, increasing price, changing position about territorial integrity, putting Kosovo model and saying it should be universal model," he said. "And even more, if Kosovo is independent, why should we deny Abkhazia or South Ossetia independence. That definitely shows that there is a serious change in the Russian position, towards Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine."

The Security Council Tuesday denied Secretary-General Kofi Annan's request for a six-month extension of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Georgia. The Council instead granted a 60-day extension, and emphasized that it would keep a close watch on events there.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s. Authorities in Tbilisi have long accused Russia of supporting the rebel provinces, which are internationally recognized as part of Georgia.