Russia sought to bolster its diplomatic position in its stand off with the West over Georgia today by dispatching President Dmitry Medvedev to meet his Chinese counterpart.
Mr Medvedev was to meet President Hu Jintao at a Central Asian security summit in Tajikistan in an encounter that is unlikely to yield the sort of criticism that Russia has attracted from Europe and America over its actions in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
China has kept a diplomatic silence over events in Georgia so far. Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang refused to endorse Russia’s decision to recognise the two enclaves. “We have noted the latest developments of the situation, and we hope relevant parties find a proper resolution of the issue through dialogue.”
But Russia also continues to play its military cards in the region. A senior military spokesman said that Moscow had ordered the navy to monitor Nato vessels in the Black Sea.
Russian relations with the West continue to deteriorate. A Kremlin statement hinted that President Medvedev held a tense telephone call with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Dmitry Medvedev gave an exhaustive explanation in relation to questions Angela Merkel had on this issue, confirming Russia’s commitment to realising agreed principles,” it said.
Afterwards the German cabinet said it would send an additional 15 military personnel as observers to Georgia.
The French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, declared that Europe could never accept the Russian-backed independence declarations by the two regions and warned that Moscow would set its sights on Ukraine if it was unchallenged over Georgia. “That is not impossible,” he said. “I repeat that it is very dangerous, and there are other objectives that one can suppose are objectives for Russia, in particular the Crimea, Ukraine and Moldova.”
David Miliband, the foreign secretary, arrived in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev today for a visit designed to demonstrate Western support for the former Soviet republic, which hosts Russia’s Black Sea fleet at the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
Russia’s ambassador to another divided country in the former Eastern bloc, Moldova held up the example of Georgia as a warning over its internal divisions. Valeri Kuzmin told the Moldovan leadership to avoid a “bloody and catastrophic trend of events” in a separatist region of Trans-Dniester. It broke away from Moldova in 1990 and is supported by Russia but is not recognised internationally. Russia has 1,500 troops stationed there to guard weapons facilities.
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 4:32PM BST 27 Aug 2008