UNITED NATIONS, September 26 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian delegation walked out Wednesday during outgoing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s speech at the UN General Assembly, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
“As a token of disagreement with the assessments voiced by Mr. Saakashvili from the General Assembly rostrum, Russian representatives walked out of the hall,” spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
The delegation left the hall close to the end of the 20-minute speech, more than half of which the Georgian leader devoted to fiercely criticizing the Russian authorities and their policy in former Soviet republics.
Several minutes into his speech, Saakashvili launched into a description of a world in which countries on Russia’s borders exist under “constant pressures and threats” from an “old empire” that “is trying to reclaim its bygone borders.”
“Conflict itself is their objective,” Saakashvili asserted, painting a picture of a Russia afflicted by post-Imperial syndrome, unable to accept it is no longer an empire, tied in to a foreign policy drawn up in terms of colonies and “divide and rule.”
Around 18 minutes into his speech, when the Russian delegation was still in the hall, he slammed Russia’s recent Eurasian Union initiative – a proposed political and economic union consisting of primarily former Soviet states – as “fuelled by intolerance, led by old KGB structures" and "shaped to revive an old empire.”
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, later blasted Saakashvili’s speech saying it was “Russophobic.”
Russia and Georgia severed diplomatic ties in 2008 after fighting a brief war in August over Georgia’s de-facto independent republic of South Ossetia. Moscow subsequently recognized both South Ossetia and its fellow breakaway Georgian republic of Abkhazia as independent states, and provides them with economic and military support.
Their independence has been recognized by a handful of other countries, but most countries continue to consider South Ossetia and Abkhazia part of Georgia.
Georgia’s new government, elected in the October 1, 2012 polls, said normalizing ties with Russia was among its top priorities. However, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said in July that Moscow and Tbilisi are unlikely to restore their ties by the time Russia holds the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Updated with quotes from Saakashvili's speech, modified headline.