Russia might target others after Georgia -France

Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:30am EDT

PARIS Aug 27 (Reuters) - Russia might have its eye on other neighbouring countries such as Ukraine and Moldova after its armed forces stormed Georgia, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Wednesday.

Russia's armed forces overpowered Georgia's troops earlier this month after Tbilisi tried to retake control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Russian troops continue to occupy parts of Georgia, and Moscow recognised South Ossetia and another rebel region of Georgia, Abkhazia, as independent states on Tuesday, prompting strong criticism from France and other Western powers.

Asked on Europe 1 radio whether Russia would now regularly choose to confront the West rather than cooperate with it, Kouchner said: "That is not impossible."

"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."

Like Georgia, Ukraine has a pro-Western president who wants his country to join NATO, a move away from Moscow's sphere of influence which has angered the Kremlin. It also has a large Russian-speaking population, but is much bigger than Georgia.

The Crimea, in southern Ukraine, hosts Russia's Black Sea fleet at the port of Sevastopol under a lease that runs until 2017, and most people who live there are ethnic Russians.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has angered Moscow by saying Kiev is not planning to renew the lease.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned another former Soviet republic, Moldova, on Monday not to make the same mistake as Georgia by trying to seize back control of its breakaway pro-Russian region, Transdniestria.

Kouchner repeated his call on Russia to comply with international commitments, including a French-backed peace plan under which Russia agreed to pull back its forces to the positions they held before the crisis.

"We cannot accept these violations of all international law, of agreements on security and cooperation in Europe, of United Nations resolutions, and the seizing for the first time in a long time of one territory by the army of a neighbouring country," Kouchner said.

"It (Russia) is an international outlaw. That is not just the opinion of the European Union," he added.

The leaders of the European Union's member states are due to hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss their response to Russia's actions, but Kouchner would not be drawn on what decisions they might take.

"The 27 heads of state will obviously react," Kouchner said.

"The European Union, the 27 countries, 500 million people, Europe's economic power, must manifest themselves in this crisis to stop it and negotiate a political solution," he added. (Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Dominic Evans)




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