May 6, 2008 / 5:26 PM / 11 years ago

U.S. slams Russia over rising tensions with Georgia

Russian peacekeeping troops sit at an air defence artillery in their camp near the village of Kokhora bordering the Gali district in the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia May 4, 2008. REUTERS/Vladimir Popov

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday condemned the Russian government for taking “provocative actions” against neighboring Georgia and urged both sides to take steps to avoid armed confrontation.

The White House accused Moscow of escalating tensions over the Georgian breakaway province of Abkhazia by sending in more troops, shooting down an unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicle over Georgia and boosting ties with the separatist regions.

“In recent days and weeks, the Russian government has taken what we would call provocative actions which have increased tensions with Georgia,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters.

“These steps have significantly and unnecessarily heightened tensions in the region,” she said.

Georgia has tried to reassert control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia since they broke away in the early 1990s. Russia has said its troop increases were aimed at countering an attack planned by Georgia on Abkhazia and it denied the drone shootdown.

Perino urged the Russian government to reiterate its commitment to Georgia’s territorial borders and sovereignty, reverse the troop movements and “cease from further provocation.

“In contacts with both the Russian and Georgian governments at the highest levels, the United States has firmly reiterated our support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and strongly urged Russia to de-escalate and reverse its measures,” she said.

The United States and Western allies have suspected Russia of trying to punish Georgia — a small Caucasus country on Russia’s southern border — for its attempt to join the NATO alliance which Washington supports.

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by David Alexander

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