ICG - Russia must withdraw troops from Georgia

INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP - NEW MEDIA RELEASE

Georgia Conflict Alert: Russia must withdraw its troops from Georgia

Tbilisi/Brussels, 11 August 2008: Russia must cease its advances within Georgia, immediately withdraw its troops to its peacekeeping positions, and restore the status quo ante.

During the course of today, 11 August 2008, Russian troops, backed by its air force, advanced deep into Georgia, well beyond the boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and apparently took control of the Georgian towns of Gori, Senaki and Zugdidi, among others.

Russia has no legitimate security interests justifying its advance beyond the boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is not performing a peacekeeping function or defending the rights of Russian citizens. Today’s advances and attacks raise real doubts about Russia’s intentions with respect to Georgia. These steps appear aimed at undermining Georgia’s capacity to function as a state.

Russia must immediately agree to the ceasefire proposal made by European Union and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) envoys, the French and Finnish Foreign Ministers Bernard Kouchner and Alexander Stubb, which Georgia has signed.

The international community, and particularly the United States and the European Union, must make it unequivocally clear that Russia’s aggression is a flagrant violation of international law and undermines its legitimacy as a defender of that law. It must also declare that failure to withdraw its troops back to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and then to Russia, will be strongly condemned and will significantly damage Russia’s relations with the U.S. and EU. Western heads of state should deliver this message forcefully to the Russian president and prime minister, including in person in Moscow.

Once hostilities have ceased and withdrawal occurred, negotiations should take place between Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia to sign a non-resumption of hostilities text and agree to a revised peacekeeping arrangement and new negotiations format. All parties must secure the return of displaced persons and provide humanitarian assistance.

Contacts: Sabine Freizer, Europe Program Director (Brussels) +32 (0) 484 368 375
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601 media@crisisgroup.org

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