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Georgia says Russia Acting 'Imperialist'


Georgians are reacting with a mixture of concern and fury at the Russia's decision to recognize the independence of two separatist territories within Georgia. VOA's Peter Heinlein in Tbilisi reports senior Georgian officials are urging the West to view the Kremlin's action as proof that Russian imperialism is again on the rise.

Georgia's State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili says Russia's recognition of independence for the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia means the war that broke out this month between the two countries is continuing.

Speaking to VOA, Yakobashvili urged the West to react strongly.

"Now we know what Russians really wanted, now it is clear that it is not about Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it is about Georgia and Russia. Know we know it is about Russian imperialism. Now we know that it is about Russia's ambitions, so I think that it is high time for the West to understand that this is not about only Georgia's job, but it is largely should be the concern of the West, because it is a war of values," he said.

Fighting broke out in South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali the first week of August. Russia responded by sending troops deep into Georgian territory. They captured the city of Gori, just 55 kilometers from the capital, Tbilisi, and held it for several days before retreating in the face of strong international pressure.

News agencies reported celebratory gunfire and people streaming into the streets in both the Ossetian and Abkhazian capitals when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced he was officially recognizing the independence of the regions.

But in Tbilisi, the reaction was almost unanimously one of anger, and pleas for the West to come to the aid of Georgia, a former Soviet republic of 4.5 million people on the southern flank of its much larger neighbor, Russia.

Maka Piranishvili, 22, arrived in Tbilisi only a day earlier after enduring the Russian siege of her hometown, Gori. She insisted the breakaway territories are Georgian, but said Georgia is helpless in the face of Russia's military and diplomatic offensive.

"Georgia cannot defend from Russia," she said. "We need help from the whole world. President Medvedev must not decide about independence of Ossetia and Abkhazia."

The United States and Europe are making a strong show of diplomatic and moral support for Georgia, but have shown no interest in a military confrontation with Russia over Georgia.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called an emergency European Union summit for next week to consider strategies for persuading Russia to withdraw troops still controlling Georgian territory.

Washington has sent a steady stream of high-level visitors to the region to underline its backing, and has delivered more than $21 million in aid to Georgians displaced by the Russian military incursion.

Among the latest prominent Americans visiting Tbilisi is Cindy McCain, the wife of U.S. Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain. She toured camps for the internally displaced in the company of Georgia's first lady, Sandra Saakashvili.

Mrs. McCain told reporters her job was to make sure the international community does not forget what is going on in Georgia, and to shine a light on the hardship of people left homeless by the destruction caused when Russian troops roared through their towns and villages this month.

"The only place these people want to be is home, and they cannot go home because of what has happened to them, and because the situation that the Russians have caused. Our goal as humanitarians is to do the best we can to give them a solid life with food, clothing and self esteem until we can get them back into their homes," she said.

The recent stream of American visitors has included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Senator Joe Biden, and a host of Congressional delegations.

Others currently in the Georgian capital include Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Reuben Jeffrey, and the President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation Robert Mosbacher. They are here for a signing ceremony on an agreement pledging U.S. financing for a feasibility study on development of Georgia's substantial coal methane reserves.