Putin says Georgia seeking "bloody adventures"

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with officials in the southern city of Vladikavkaz, located next to the Georgian separatist region of South Ossetia August 9, 2008. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Georgia on Saturday of seeking “bloody adventures” and trying to drag other countries into a military conflict in its separatist region of South Ossetia.

Georgia, which has close ties with the West, and Russia came into direct conflict over the pro-Russian rebel region this week after Tbilisi launched an offensive to regain control over it.

“Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO ... is driven by its attempt to drag other nations and peoples into its bloody adventures,” Putin said during a meeting in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz. Some of the meeting was shown on television.

Putin defended Russia’s incursion into South Ossetia and urged Georgia to halt “aggression” against the breakaway region.

“From a legal point of view, Russia’s actions in South Ossetia are totally legitimate,” said Putin, who flew to the city after attending the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

“We urge the Georgian authorities to immediately stop their aggression against South Ossetia, to stop all violations of all standing agreements on a ceasefire and to respect the legal rights and interests of other people.”

Vladikavkaz is in the Russian region of North Ossetia, across the border from South Ossetia. Many people in the region share a common language and culture with their southern neighbors.

Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, Ron Popeski and Maria Golovnina; editing by Andrew Dobbie