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Tough on Russia

DPA news agency (win)November 30, 2008

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili warned the European Union on Sunday not to make too many concessions to Russia in upcoming negotiations on a partnership agreement.

Saakashvili with a Georgian and EU flag behind him
Saakashvilivi does not hide his pro-European viewsImage: AP

"Russia's smaller neighbours would view a decision by larger European countries to accept Russian aggression as treachery," he told the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel in an interview released in advance of publication Monday.

The president was speaking ahead of Tuesday's resumption of talks on a new EU partnership deal with Russia that were suspended after Russian troops marched into Georgia in August.

Saakashvili denied he shared responsibility for triggering the military escalation by sending Georgian troops into the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Absurd allegation?

"It is absurd to claim that Georgia wanted this war," he said. "We had no alternative but to establish a line of defence in South Ossetia."

On Saturday, the former chief of Georgia's border police, Badri Bizadze, accused the president of starting the conflict and ignoring advice from the West against military action.

"Saakashvili was certain he would win (the war)," Bizadze, a former deputy minister who has now joined the Georgian opposition, said in an interview with the Georgian newspaper Resonanzy.

Russia's response to the Georgian assault of Aug. 7 drove the Georgian army out of South Ossetia, but Moscow's forces occupied parts of Georgia before pulling out in October.

Saakashvili told Der Tagesspiegel that any new partnership agreement with the EU should contain a clause binding Russia "to observe international standards."

He also urged Germany to do more to lead Russia away from "creeping nationalism and militarism," which he said posed a threat to its neighbours, Europe and even its own citizens.