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Cheney Calls Georgia Victim of ‘Unjustified’ Russian Assault

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2008 – Russia’s invasion of the former Soviet republic of Georgia was unjustified, Vice President Richard B. Cheney told members of the American Legion veterans group in Phoenix today.

“That young democracy has been subjected to an unjustified assault, and the international community has joined in condemning Russia’s invasion of a sovereign, democratic neighbor and its recognition of Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” Cheney said during his address at the American Legion’s annual convention.

President Bush has asked Cheney to travel to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Italy next week for discussions with these key U.S. partners on issues of mutual interest, according to a White House news release.

Today in Phoenix, Cheney said his trip includes a visit to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city.

Russia and Georgia have argued over the northern Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia for some time. On Aug. 7, Georgian forces attacked separatists in South Ossetia. The next day, Russian troops engaged and pushed back the Georgians. The Russian forces lodged themselves in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and in other parts of Georgia. A French-brokered cease-fire between Georgia and Russia ended the hostilities.

A partial pullback of Russian forces on Aug. 22 has failed to satisfy the United States or NATO. Georgia has been working toward NATO membership, and the Russian government has voiced its displeasure over the very thought of Georgia joining the alliance.

Russian military forces still are present in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and in parts of Georgia farther south. U.S. aircraft and ships have since delivered millions of dollars of humanitarian provisions to the Georgian people.

Yesterday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that Moscow intends to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. President Bush yesterday decried Russia’s “irresponsible decision” to recognize the Georgian provinces as independent nations.

“Russia’s action only exacerbates tensions and complicates diplomatic negotiations,” said Bush, who is vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The United States will continue to support Georgia in its hour of need, Cheney vowed today in Phoenix.

“We support their democracy, and we’ll work with our allies to ensure Georgia’s territorial integrity as a free and independent nation,” Cheney said. “The Georgian people won their freedom after years of tyranny, and they can count on the friendship of the United States.”

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