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18 August 2017
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U.S. ship bypasses Russian-controlled port

Ship carrying relief supplies to dock in Batumi

A U.S. Coast Guard ship carrying relief supplies is scheduled to dock on Wednesday in Batumi, Georgia, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Georgia said, according to CNN.

The cutter Dallas will bypass the Georgian port of Poti, where Russian troops set up checkpoints after invading Georgia this month.

News reports said the Dallas had originally planned to dock there, but officials decided to send the ship to Batumi after considering various ports, the spokesman said.

The cutter was to deliver aid as part of a larger U.S. program that has delivered supplies worth at least $20 million to Georgia since Russian troops invaded.

A top Russian general called such delivery of aid "devilish," according to The Associated Press.

"The heightened activity of NATO ships in the Black Sea perplexes us," AP quoted Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn as saying in Moscow.

More than 50 U.S. military flights have landed in Georgia. In addition, the USS McFaul recently arrived at Batumi with 155,000 pounds of bottled water, milk, baby food and other items, the U.S. Navy said.

The U.S. says it has delivered sanitation facilities, tents, bedding, dry and canned goods and other items to Georgia.

On Tuesday Western nations and organizations condemned Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway regions in Georgia.

U.S. President George W. Bush led the condemnation with a strongly worded statement, saying: "The United States condemns the decision by the Russian president to recognize as independent states the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia."

Bush said Russia`s move was "inconsistent" with the French-brokered cease-fire agreement that ended the fighting and called on Russia to "reconsider this irresponsible decision."

Bush added: "The territorial integrity and borders of Georgia must be respected, just as those of Russia or any other country. Russia`s action only exacerbates tensions and complicates diplomatic negotiations."

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the decision was "unjustifiable and unacceptable."

"It will also not work. It is contrary to the principles of the peace agreement, which Russia recently agreed... [it] further inflames an already tense situation in the region," Miliband said.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the decision was in "direct violation of numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding Georgia`s territorial integrity."

The European Union also urged a political solution to the tensions in Georgia.

Speaking to CNN`s Matthew Chance, Medvedev said the move was in line with international law.

"It is internationally recognized that if a people based on all these [U.N.] provisions express their will to have an independent existence... any other state in the world has the right to recognize this independence whether you like it or not," the Russian president said.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called Russia an "aggressor state."

"My appeal to the free world is to condemn and reject Russia`s dangerous and irrational decision -- not only for Georgia`s sake -- but for the sake of preserving the fundamental basis of international law and order.

The stand-off has exacerbated already frayed relations between Russia and the West.

Moscow has been infuriated by U.S. plans to build a missile defense shield in eastern Europe. It said an agreement signed last week to base missiles in Poland would open that country up to an attack in the event of conflict.

Western nations have expressed support for Georgia, which aspires to NATO and European Union membership, with the U.S. dispatching a major humanitarian aid mission.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia during civil wars in the 1990s. Russia strengthened ties with them after the U.S. and much of Europe recognized the independence of the Serbian province of Kosovo earlier this year, a move that Moscow had warned against.

Georgian troops attacked pro-Russian separatists in South Ossetia on August 7, triggering a Russian invasion of Georgia. Russian tanks, troops and armored vehicles poured into South Ossetia and Abkhazia the following day, advancing into Georgian cities. Each side offered conflicting figures on how many people died in the fighting.

The Bush administration has insisted that both Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain part of Georgia, a U.S. ally that is seeking NATO membership, and says resolving the disputes between the Georgian government and the regions "should be a matter of peaceful negotiations and discussions among the parties."

CNN

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