September 1, 2008 in Nation/World

Russia pledges military aid to two provinces


MOSCOW – Russia’s president said Sunday his country will give military aid to the two separatist regions at the center of the war with Georgia – signaling that Moscow has no intention of backing down in the face of Western pressure.

Dmitry Medvedev also warned that American domination of world affairs is unacceptable, though he insisted Russia did not want hostile relations with the United States and other Western nations.

Medvedev’s decision Tuesday to recognize the Georgian breakaway provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent drew condemnation from the West. Though no other countries have followed Russia’s lead, Medvedev reaffirmed the decision on Sunday.

“We have made our decision, and it’s irreversible,” he said in a speech broadcast on Russian television.

The war began Aug. 7 when Georgian forces began heavy shelling of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, hoping to retake control of the province. Russian forces poured in, pushed the Georgians out in a matter of days and then drove deep into Georgia proper.

European Union leaders planned an emergency meeting today to discuss how to deal with an increasingly assertive Russia, but they are not expected to impose sanctions. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has angrily warned Europe not to do America’s bidding and said Moscow does not fear Western sanctions.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said the EU summit was a sign of a strong global support for Georgia.

“Russia today has found itself more isolated than the Soviet Union ever was,” he said in a televised statement.

Georgia asked the EU and United States to impose sanctions on companies and individuals that do business in Abkhazia and South Ossetia without its permission.

Medvedev said Russia was preparing to sign deals with the two provinces that will detail Moscow’s obligations on economic, military and other assistance to them. He said the agreements will lay the foundation for “allied” relations.

“We will provide all kinds of assistance to these republics,” Medvedev said. “These international agreements will spell out our obligations on providing support and assistance: economic, social, humanitarian and military.”

Medvedev also said Russia will protect what he called its “privileged” interests in the former Soviet nations and defend its citizens and the interests of its businessmen abroad.

He said Russia may consider economic sanctions against unfriendly nations, but would like to avoid them.

Medvedev’s predecessor and mentor Putin cautioned European nations against adopting the tough U.S. stance on Russia and “serving someone else’s political interests.” Speaking to Russian television Sunday, Putin voiced hope that the Europeans will “look out for their own skins.”

Putin, who was speaking during a visit to Russia’s far eastern region, said Russia will diversify its energy exports and expand sales to booming Asian markets. His comments appeared to be a response to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s call in an article published Sunday for Europe to adopt a united energy policy and avoid dependence on Russia.

Russia supplies the EU with about a third of its oil and about two-fifths of its natural gas, and can turn off the tap if it chooses.

© Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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