Russia describes Georgian leader as "pathological"

Russia marked the third anniversary of its war with Georgia on Monday by saying it would not renew ties with Tbilisi as long as its "badly brought up" and "pathological" president was in power.

Russian news bulletins were dominated by footage of the 2008 war and showed President Dmitry Medvedev inspecting the Molkino military base in southern Russia, where he praised troops who fought in the conflict for repelling the Georgian "aggressor."

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov went further, saying that Moscow would have no direct dealings with Tbilisi while President Mikheil Saakashvili was president.

"We will have no dealings with a man who gave the criminal order to kill peacekeepers and ordered the death of peaceful civilians, including Russian citizens," Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

"Saakashvili is of course a pathological case and an anomaly among the Georgian people. He is clearly very badly brought up ... We do not associate the Georgian with this persona."

Lavrov accused Saakashvili of "dreaming up fairy tales" about what happened in the run-up to the war, which each side accuses the other of starting.

His comments echoed remarks made by Medvedev last week in his first interview with Georgian media since the war. The president said he was open to future ties with Georgia but would "never forgive" Saakashvili.

In the Georgian capital, Saakashvili and Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II laid a wreath at a hilltop cemetery for servicemen killed during the 2008 war. Dozens of soldiers stood to attention holding red and white Georgian flags.

Saakashvili spoke to relatives of the war dead, but made no comment to waiting reporters.

Think-tank Calls for Direct Talks

Relations between the two former Soviet republics remain fraught long after Russia crushed a Georgian assault on the breakaway region of South Ossetia which followed months of tension. Tbilisi says Moscow provoked the conflict.

Since then, Moscow and Tbilisi have been in a political stalemate over South Ossetia and the breakaway region of Abkhazia, which Russia recognizes as independent states.

Disputes over spying allegations and Georgia's objections to Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization have also fueled tensions.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank said in a report that direct Russian-Georgian talks were needed to dispel a "potentially explosive" situation.

The Kremlin sent an agreement on establishing military bases in Georgia's two breakaway territories to parliament for ratification on Monday, it said in a statement on its website.

The deal was reached last year with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where Russia already has de facto bases, and the bill is likely to sail through the lower house.

Despite a ceasefire calling for the withdrawal of troops from the rebel regions, Moscow has stationed soldiers there, drawing widespread condemnation from Western governments.

Georgia has said 228 Georgian civilians and 169 servicemen were killed in the war. Russia said at least 64 Russian servicemen were killed in the conflict.

[Source: By Alissa de Carbonnel and Alexei Anishchuk, Reuters, Moscow and Molkino, 08Aug11]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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