Russia threatens no one, protects own interests - deputy PM

Russia threatens no one, and was protecting the lives of its citizens during recent fighting with Georgia over South Ossetia, a Russian deputy PM said on Sunday.

"Russia threatens no one,"said Sergei Ivanov in Libya. "Russia is protecting its own interests."

He also said, in comments broadcast by the Russian TV channel Vesti, that Russia had protected the "lives of its citizens" in South Ossetia.

"That is how any self-respecting, civilized state acts," he went on. "I underline here - civilized."

Moscow recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states on Tuesday, despite warnings by Western leaders not to do so.

The move came two weeks after Russia concluded its operation "to force Georgia to peace" as a response to Tbilisi's attack on South Ossetia on August 8.

Ivanov also said that Russia would develop its relations with NATO in accordance with the policies chosen by the military alliance in regard to Moscow.

"This is neither an economic bloc, nor a charity organization," he commented, going on to say that, "NATO remains a military-political alliance."

He also added that "We will do everything to establish equal relations with the alliance."

Ivanov noted that NATO had taken a host of decisions of late that could only worsen cooperation with Moscow.

Ties between NATO and Russia have been frozen since the current crisis over Georgia erupted.

NATO expansion and U.S. plans for a missile shield in Central Europe had seen rising tensions between Moscow and the 26-nation military alliance even before the Georgia conflict.

Georgia and Ukraine, both former Soviet republics, failed to secure an agreement on a NATO Membership Action Plan, a key step toward joining the alliance, at the organization's summit in April, but were told the decision would be reviewed in December.

[Source: Novosti, Moscow, 31Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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