6 Western nations demand Russia return two regions it took from neighboring Georgia 15 years ago

Aug 10, 2023, 4:24 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Six Western nations marked the 15th anniversary of Russia’s takeover of 20% of Georgia’s territory by demanding on Thursday that Moscow return the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions.

A joint statement by the six members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, United Kingdom, France, Albania, Japan and Malta — said Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 “marked a more aggressive trend” in its policy toward its neighbors, something being witnessed today in Ukraine.

The statement, following closed council consultations on Georgia, said the six countries “are resolute” in reaffirming the country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity “within its internationally recognized borders.”

In August 2008, Russia fought a brief war with Georgia, which had made a botched attempt to regain control over the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Moscow then recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian province, Abkhazia, and set up military bases there.

The statement, read by Albanian Ambassador Ferit Hoxha outside the Security Council surrounded by diplomats from the five other countries, condemned Russia’s “brutal invasion” and continued occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and its “steps toward annexation of these Georgian regions.”

The Western nations also reiterated their condemnation of Moscow for “continuous provocations which go in parallel with the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine.”

They pointed to Russia’s continued military drills in Georgia’s territory, sea and airspace as well as its erection of barbed wire fences and other barriers, its unlawful detentions and abductions of local people, discrimination against ethnic Georgians, and deliberate damage to Georgian cultural heritage.

The six countries said the Russia-Georgia conflict should be resolved peacefully based on international law, including the U.N. Charter, which requires every country’s territorial integrity be recognized, “also noting the context of Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.”

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, called the Western statement “hypocrisy” in a tweet, saying Georgia lost territory because of a “reckless gamble.”

Russia resumed direct flights with Georgia in May, and Polyansky said Moscow’s ties with the country “are gradually improving, enabling tourist and economic exchanges.”

“But the Russophobic West is not happy and trying to drive the wedge between us at any price,” he said. “This statement is a clear illustration of this.”

Polyansky called the situation “especially sickening and hypocritical” knowing that Ukraine turned “anti-Russia” in 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea. He said Ukraine “is being sacrificed right now by the U.S. and its allies for Western geopolitical interests in a futile NATO proxy war against Russia until the last Ukrainian.”

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6 Western nations demand Russia return two regions it took from neighboring Georgia 15 years ago