Georgia has accused Moscow of building up its forces and holding “unprecedented” war games in disputed territories as Russia warned of a "terrible conflict" if Nato allows the former Soviet republic to join.
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The sabre-rattling came on the 10th anniversary of the Russian invasion, which deprived Georgia of one-fifth of its territory.
The foreign affairs ministry in Tbilisi said Russia was conducting large-scale military drills involving thousands of troops and hundreds of vehicles in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
It called the operations an “unprecedented attempt by Russia to demonstrate its military power” and threaten Georgia, a tiny Caucasian country sandwiched between Russia and Turkey on the Black Sea.
In the decade since the conflict, Moscow has failed to implement the ceasefire agreement brokered by the EU and “has further reinforced its illegal military presence on the ground”, it said.
The five-day war began when Georgia shelled separatists in South Ossetia, giving Russian forces a pretext to pour over the border and cement control of the two breakaway regions, which seceded in the 1990s.
Allies including the United States refrained from intervening. Only Russia and a handful of countries recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to call things by their names. What Russia did and is doing against a sovereign government is a war between Russia Georgia, it’s aggression, it’s an occupation and it’s a violation of all international norms,” president Giorgi Margvelashvili told ministers from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine at a meeting in the capital Tbilisi.
“The aggressor’s appetite has only increased after the invasion,” he said.
Tensions have been running high in the region as the Western alliance holds its own competing war games in Georgia. Some 1,300 Georgian soldiers, 1,170 from the United States and several hundred from Britain and other Nato members are taking part in the two weeks of exercise.
Nato has promised that Georgia will one day be able to join the alliance, the expansion of which has been a constant bone of contention with Vladimir Putin.
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev, who was president when Russia launched its 2008 operation, on Monday called the reaffirmation of this pledge at last month’s Nato summit an “absolutely irresponsible position” and a “threat to peace”.
“There’s an unregulated territorial conflict no matter which position you take. And they’re going to admit such a country, such a government, into a military bloc?” Mr Medvedev said. “This could provoke a terrible conflict.”
His comments echoed those of Mr Putin, who last month said Russia would “respond appropriately” to the “direct threat” of any new Nato military infrastructure near its borders.
He warned that Nato should think about the “possible consequences” of accepting Ukraine or Georgia into the alliance.
Russia’s angry rhetoric has prompted statements of support from Georgia’s allies in the West.
Alan Duncan, the British foreign office minister, said in a video address it was a “tragedy that Georgia remains divided” and called on Russia to withdraw its forces from the country’s territory.
Secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in a call to Mr Margvelashvili that the United States supports Georgia’s attempts at a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said the EU was “unwavering in our support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Mikheil Saakashvili, who was president of Georgia during the 2008 war, told independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta on Tuesday that “Putin didn’t achieve two-thirds of his goals in Georgia” after the conflict.
“Georgia is continuing to slowly move toward Euro-Atlantic integration,” he said.