President George W Bush said the move had “damaged relations” between America and Russia and demanded that Moscow “keep its word” over the ceasefire.
“To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis,” Bush said.
But Russia retorted that America, which has a staunch ally of Tbilisi’s pro-western government, would have “to choose” between building a relationship with Georgia or Russia.
“We understand that this current Georgian leadership is a special project of the United States, but one day the United States will have to choose,” said the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili earlier Wednesday called for John McCain and other American leaders to do more for Georgia in their response to the conflict in his country.
“Yesterday, I heard Sen. McCain say, ‘We are all Georgians now,’ ” Saakashvili said on CNN’s American Morning. “Well, very nice, you know, very cheering for us to hear that, but OK, it’s time to pass from this – from words to deeds.”
McCain’s foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann told reporters on the campaign plane Tuesday that McCain’s remark “obviously meant a lot to Saakashvili personally, but more importantly the message it conveyed to the Georgian people in this really, time of unprecedented national emergency.” Scheunemann said McCain and Saakashvili are friends who have speaking daily throughout the crisis.
But Saakashvili said action is more important than rhetoric in the face of “brutal” and “deliberate” Russian violence. He urged the United States to take the lead in installing an international peacekeeping force.
“We should realize what is at stake here for Americans,” he said. “America is losing the whole region.”
“What Americans should do know, first of all, clearly make known their intentions,” he said.
This morning, a column of 70 Russian military vehicles, including military trucks with anti-aircraft guns and artillery as well as armored personnel carriers, sped down the road to Tbilisi fluttering Russian flags.
Earlier, as the European Union announced plans to send peacekeeping troops to monitor the ceasefire, Russian troops patrolled Gori, destroying an empty Georgian military base in the frontline Georgian town and setting up a checkpoint on the road to Tbilisi.
Civilians in Gori today claimed they had been shot at by Russian soldiers and South Ossetian snipers, who local residents said have been attacking villages outside the town. Georgian troops pulled back from the town of Gori earlier this week.
Georgia has also lost its last stronghold in another separatist province, Abkhazia, overnight as its troops withdrew from the Kodori Gorge.
Russian-backed separatist forces took advantage of the Georgian military’s collapse to attack Kodori.
More than 100 Russian military vehicles entered the gorge on Tuesday forcing the Georgian retreat.
Diplomatic efforts to resolve the six-day crisis remain stalled in confusing claim and counter-claim.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008 – Tbilisi, Georgia (No cease fire)
Wednesday, August 13, 2008 – Tbilisi, Georgia (Georgians protest)
Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili – May 2008