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Georgia breaks off ties with Russia

August 30, 2008|From Times Wire Services

TBILISI, GEORGIA — Georgia severed diplomatic ties with Moscow on Friday to protest the presence of Russian troops on its territory. Russia said the move would only make things worse.

With European Union leaders meeting Monday in Brussels to discuss how to deal with Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin angrily warned Europe not to do America's bidding and said Moscow did not fear Western sanctions.

Russia has faced isolation over its offensive in Georgia and stands alone in its recognition of breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The U.S. and Europe have closed ranks in condemning Russia but are struggling to find an effective response.

EU leaders are not expected to impose sanctions on Russia but may name a special envoy to Georgia to ensure that a cease-fire is observed, French and Belgian officials said.

Georgia's diplomats in Russia will leave Moscow today, the Foreign Ministry said. Georgia's leadership followed through on a call from lawmakers who voted late Thursday to break off ties with Russia.

Both nations' consulates, however, will remain open -- important for the many Georgian citizens living in Russia. Under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, breaking off diplomatic ties does not automatically lead to a cut in consular relations.

Meanwhile, Putin launched a fresh attack on the United States, alleging U.S. advisors were involved in the conflict and accusing the White House of provoking the crisis to influence the presidential election. Putin's comments, broadcast Friday by German TV channel ARD, expanded on remarks in a CNN interview shown Thursday that the White House called "patently false."

Alleging that many Americans were in the conflict zone, Putin said, "that pushes one to the conclusion that the leadership of the United States knew about the action that was being prepared and moreover probably took part in it."

"If the leadership of the United States had sanctioned that, then I have the suspicion that it was done specially to organize a small, victorious war," he said. "And if it didn't work, then to create from Russia the appearance of an enemy and on that ground unite the electorate around one presidential candidate, of course the ruling party." He did not mention John McCain.

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