Georgian policy toward Russia provocative - Russian envoy to NATO

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Tbilisi is behaving in a provocative manner toward Russia over the issue of Georgia's breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia's envoy to NATO said Monday.
BRUSSELS, April 28 (RIA Novosti) - Tbilisi is behaving in a provocative manner toward Russia over the issue of Georgia's breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia's envoy to NATO said Monday.

"Georgia is behaving in a provocative way. One gets the impression that someone irresponsible is seeking a pretext for a war," Dmitry Rogozin said.

Georgia claims that on April 20 a Russian MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter from the Gudauta military base in Abkhazia, where Russian peacekeepers have been stationed since the end of a bloody conflict in the early 1990s, shot down a Georgian drone.

The incident came after Russian President Vladimir Putin's calls earlier this month for closer ties with Georgia's two breakaway provinces, and has plunged relations between Moscow and Tbilisi to a new low. Putin's statement provoked an angry response from Tbilisi, with Georgia's foreign minister accusing Russia of attempting "to annex" the two republics.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Georgia is looking to regain control over the two republics.

Ex-Soviet breakaway regions have stepped up their drive for self-rule since Kosovo's declaration of independence on February 17. Georgia's Abkhazia and South Ossetia, along with Moldova's Transdnestr, have since asked Russia's parliament, the UN and other organizations to recognize their independence.

Valery Kenyaikin, the Russian Foreign Ministry's ambassador at large, said on April 25 that Russia would do everything possible to protect the interests of Russian citizens living in Georgia's breakaway republics.

"We will not leave our citizens in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in difficulty and this should be clearly understood... We will do everything possible to avert a military conflict." He also added however that Russia would "have to use military force," if the need arose.

Alexander Torshin, a deputy speaker at the Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament, said on Monday that this statement "should be interpreted as a warning against adventurism."

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