Russian President Dmitry Medvedev defended last week’s decree recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia ahead of tomorrow’s emergency EU summit on the Georgian conflict. Reports abound that several EU member nations are pressing for harsh sanctions against Russia. President Medvedev warned of retaliation against any hostile actions taken at the summit, and suggested that any sanctions would likely end up hurting the EU worse than Russia at any rate.
Though sanctions seem unlikely to pass through the summit at this point, EU leaders reportedly will aim to “punish” Russia by strengthening ties with Georgia. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quoted as calling for a fundamental review of ties with Russia to prevent further “Russian aggression,” while Georgian officials urged Europe to unite against Russia and what Georgian President Saakashvili termed their “dirty attempt at aggression”.
Russian troops had been in South Ossetia as part of a 1992 cease-fire deal between the breakaway region and Georgia. Russia has maintained that their troops came under fire during a Georgian offensive aimed at retaking the region and its subsequent invasion was a retaliatory measure designed to protect the Ossetians, tens of thousands of whom fled to Russia when the conflict began. This claim was considerably strengthened this weekend when OSCE officials issued a report, set to be published in Germany’s Der Spiegel (note: link is in German) on Monday, The report cited extensive Georgian preparations for the offensive in early August and will include reports of suspected war crimes by Georgian forces against South Ossetian civilians
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