Moscow dismissed on Wednesday the U.S. state secretary's remarks about Georgia's occupation by Russian troops as "baseless."
Speaking in Tbilisi on Monday on the final stage of her East European and South Caucasus tour, Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States fully supported Georgia and "flatly rejects" Russian claims to have a privileged sphere of influence concerning former Soviet republics.
She said the presence of Russian troops in Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was in breach of the ceasefire that ended the five-day Russian-Georgian war in August 2008 and urged Moscow to honor its commitments, "including ending the occupation and withdrawing Russian troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia to their pre-conflict positions."
"The use of the term 'occupation' by State Secretary Hillary Clinton in this context has absolutely no basis," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"There is not a single Russian military serviceman in Georgia. Russia does have military contingents but they are stationed on the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which seceded from Georgia as a result of a war unleashed by the Saakashvili regime."
Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia shortly after the military conflict with Georgia. The two former Georgian republics are also recognized by Nicaragua, Venezuela and the tiny island state of Nauru.
It stressed that Russian military contingents and bases in the two republics were stationed in accordance with bilateral interstate agreements and "in full compliance with norms of international law."
"We hope that our partners will take this objective reality into account in their public and practical activity," the ministry said.
Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh earlier on Wednesday took strong objection to Clinton's comments and instructed parliament and public organizations to respond to her allegations.
Bagapsh stressed that Russian troops "did not occupy Abkhazia - they are present here on the basis of an interstate treaty, ensuring the security and stability of the region."
Abkhazian Foreign Minister Maksim Gvindzhia said his "U.S. colleagues" did not want to recognize reality.
"It is outrageous...to call a state an 'occupied' territory even though that state is governed by a popularly elected president and parliament and where all government and civil society institutions are functional," he said.
MOSCOW, July 7 (RIA Novosti)