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Russia Will Act If Georgia Starts War in S Ossetia
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Russia will respond if Georgia starts military actions in Abkhazia or South Ossetia that could endanger Russian citizens, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Sunday.

"Russia doesn't need this war. We cannot and don't want to fight with the friendly Georgian people," Ivanov said on the "News of the Week" program broadcast by a Russian TV channel over the Russian Far East.

But "Abkhazia and South Ossetia are a different matter," Ivanov said. "There are our peacekeepers there, and there are a lot of Russian citizens there as well as in Georgia. There is an overwhelming majority of them in Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- up to 90 percent."

Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia's central government in the early 1990s and Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the two regions since then.

"And if the Georgian leadership launches a military attack against our peacekeepers, Russian citizens, and if ethnic cleansing and genocide start there, Russia will not remain indifferent," Ivanov added.

"As for the conflicts existing on Georgian territory, first, we have been blamed for trying to annex part of the territory. We are not going to annex anything, and we are not going to make these territories part of Russia," he said.

"It is a different question that the Georgian leadership's policy in relation to the autonomies in the past 15 years has done everything to drive them away. There have been two wars in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, each, with the result we all know," he said.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have been strained by tensions over Georgia's two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has vowed to bring South Ossetia and Abkhazia back under Tbilisi's control. Georgia's parliament has demanded the pullout of Russian troops from the regions.

The arrest last week of four Russian officers in Georgia on spying charges has added to the already tense relationship. Georgia released the men later, but Moscow slapped sweeping economic sanctions on Tbilisi, cutting transport and postal links with the Caucasus nation.

(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2006)


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