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Europe

West Urges Russia Not to Undermine Georgia's Sovereignty

Germany, Britain, France and the US have urged Russia to revoke its decision to formalize links with Georgia's two breakaway regions and condemned the downing of an unmanned drone in Georgian airspace.

Kremlin

The Kremlin is being accused of threatening the sovereignty of Georgia

The countries issued a statement on Wednesday, April 23, saying they were highly concerned about the latest initiative to establish official ties with institutions of the de facto authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia without the consent of the Georgian government.

"We call on the Russian Federation to revoke or not implement its decisions," it further stated.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered legal links to be established with local authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- a step that sparked international criticism and outrage in Tbilisi.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Security Council members, Georgian Foreign Minister David Bakradze said Russia had undermined Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and said the step amounted to "creeping annexation" of the breakaway territories.

He told reporters that Georgia was grateful that the four countries had brought pressure to bear on Russia to reverse the order.

Russia refutes ulterior political motives

NATO symbol against Russian flag

Georgia's desire to join NATO has further inflamed relations with Russia

But Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, responded by saying that Moscow only wants to promote the economic development of the two provinces, rather than annex them.

Georgia, a small republic to the south of Russia, is a growing flashpoint in Russia's tense relations with the West, particularly over the ex-Soviet republic's push to join NATO. In their statement, the four Western countries stressed the need "to narrow and not increase the existing divide and to bring the sides together."

But the countries also strongly condemned the downing of an unmanned Georgian reconnaissance plane over Abkhazia on Sunday.

"We call on all parties involved in these incidents to renounce any armed or military action and to respect Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the statement added.

Downing of drone disputed by Russia

Bakradze said Tbilisi had radar evidence that the unmanned drone was downed by a MiG fighter and that Russia was the only country in the region to own such planes.

Churkin called into question the authenticity of the video circulated by Georgia as evidence. The Russian envoy also described the use of the drone as "provocative" and said the Abkhaz side had every right to view it as threatening.

Abkhazia broke from Georgia in the early 1990s and a ceasefire has been in place since 1994. Georgia's pro-Western government accuses Russia of propping up the separatist authorities.

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