Georgia has dismissed the Russian parliament's vote calling for recognition of the independence of two breakaway Georgian regions. VOA's Peter Heinlein in Tbilisi reports Georgian officials are pleading with western countries to step up pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops from large areas of the country.
President Mikheil Saakashvili Monday told Georgians 'nobody can legalize the annexation of Georgian territories.' He was speaking during a televised meeting of Cabinet ministers. The meeting was symbolically held in the city of Gori, 55 kilometers north of Tbilisi, which was occupied by Russian forces for several days this month.
Speaking in Georgian, Mr. Saakashvili described the Russian incursion into Georgia as the first steps of the Kremlin's attempt to restore the Soviet Union.
"Unfortunately, they have chosen to start with Georgia," he said. "This is our tragic geopolitical fate, but this is not 1921. They could not invade Tbilisi. They could not subjugate all Georgia, and nobody could make legal the annexation of our territory."
The Georgian leader's comments came hours after both houses of Russia's parliament voted unanimously to recommend that President Dmitry Medvedev recognize the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as fully independent states.
Georgian officials Monday expressed satisfaction that U.S. President George Bush has dispatched Vice President Dick Cheney to Tbilisi and other capitals in the region next week. In a VOA interview, Nicholas Rurua, chairman of the Georgian parliament's Security and Defense Committee urged even greater western pressure, calling it an increasingly important factor in forcing Russia to moderate its behavior.
"I think western pressure already put on Russia has had its effect," he said. "It works and it will work because Russia depends on the west. It's not the Soviet Union that was self-sufficient. Russia will have to somehow learn how to play by internationally recognized rules. They cannot go unpunished."
Rurua expressed outrage at news that Russia is planning to carry out regular cargo inspections at Georgia's economically vital Black Sea port of Poti. He called the move 'stupid', and said he does not think such inspections are feasible.
"They don't have any right to do so, they might attempt it, testing the patience of the Georgian government as well as the western allies," he said. "They will try to go as far as they are allowed, I don't think it's implementable, but they might say something like that, they might demand such stupid action."
The lawmaker also reacted strongly to news that Russian forces had completely destroyed a showpiece Georgian military installation they occupied for several days this month. Reporters taken on a tour of the Senaki base after Georgia reclaimed it Sunday saw tanks, helicopters and several buildings blown to pieces by what apparently were large bombs. Defense Committee chairman Rurua charged that the destruction, the looting, and the economic blockade of Poti are all part of subversion plan designed to bring down Georgia's government.
"They want to strangle the Georgian economy to make the Georgian people as unhappy as possible in order for them to turn against their own government," he said. "It's basically a subversion plan carried out by Russian government against sovereign Georgia."
Georgian defense officials say Russian forces and Moscow-backed Ossetian separatists were locked in a standoff with Georgian troops Monday near the town of Tskhinvali, where the fighting broke out early this month. Georgia's National Security Council chief Kakha Lomaya was quoted Monday as saying he sees the military confrontation as a Russian provocation, a charge Kremlin officials deny.