MOSCOW/VIENNA (Europe News)—Western countries must stop weapons shipments to Georgia, Russia warned on Thursday, on the eve of the first anniversary of its conflict with Georgia.
In an interview broadcast on Russian media, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko urged Western nations not to encourage Georgia to pursue military ventures by providing it with military aid.
Such military support leads Georgia to think it can solve its problems militarily, not diplomatically, warned Nesterenko.
Georgia and Russia will both mark the one-year anniversary of the war this weekend, in which the two fought over the status of two breakaway Georgian republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In remarks carried by Interfax news agency from Ankara, visiting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stressed that Moscow had no interest in use of arms in the Caucasus region.
Russia, said Putin, had no plans to attack Georgia—no matter what the government in Tbilisi said—and he also urged an end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Conflicts only disrupt the development of our relations with the other side,” Interfax quoted him as saying.
Thousands of Georgian students meanwhile arrived by bus on Thursday in the city of Gori to protest the “Russian occupiers.”
Russian soldiers had last year temporarily occupied the town, the birthplace of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, after Georgia invaded South Ossetia.
In the aftermath of the war, both breakaway regions claimed independence and enjoy Russian recognition and support. However, very few other nations recognize their statehood.
In the lead-up to the anniversary, the two countries have traded accusations that the other is preparing for new military aggression.
The situation has alarmed international bodies. The European Union, which maintains a force of over 200 monitors in Georgia, on Monday warned both sides to refrain from stoking tensions.
The current chairwoman of the Organization for Security and Co- operation in Europe, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, said that all sides should refrain from actions and statements that could destabilize the situation further.
“Wounds are still raw, and the region remains fragile and volatile,” she said in a statement released by the Vienna-based body that includes Russia and the United States among its members.
The head of human-rights body the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, echoed that call, warning that both sides are acting irresponsibly and stoking tensions in the Caucasus exactly as they did before they went to war a year ago.
“They are marking the first anniversary of their conflict with rhetoric and tension. This is how the shooting started a year ago,” Davis said in a statement.
“While some Georgian and Russian politicians still shout at each other and argue about who started it, the rest of us should remember both the dead and the living … the thousands of people who were forced from their homes and have still not been allowed to return,” Davis said.
As Moscow blocked the extension of military observer missions by the United Nations and the OSCE, both organizations had to withdraw from Georgia in late June.
The EU’s mission remains in the country.