|Russia says ready to protect Georgian rebel region|
|Tuesday, 26 April 2011|
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday it was ready to do anything to protect the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia from any "military provocations" by Tbilisi, three years after Russia and Georgia fought a war over the enclave.
"We don't exclude military provocations from Georgia, because you can expect anything from the current regime in Tbilisi," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a visit to South Ossetia's regional capital, Tskhinvali.
"Therefore we will do everything to hopefully guarantee the security of South Ossetian citizens and be ready in case someone again wants to commit the same crime as in August 2008," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.
Russia crushed Georgian forces that month in a five-day war after Tbilisi tried to regain control of South Ossetia with a military assault.
Moscow has boosted ties with South Ossetia and another Georgian rebel region, Abkhazia, which both shook off Tbilisi's rule in wars in the early 1990s. Much to Georgia's ire, Russia has recognised both regions as independent countries.
Since the 2008 war, Russia and Georgia have accused each other of "provocations" and sabotage. In February, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pointed the finger at Georgia as he spoke about security threats to 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be staged in southern Russia near Abkhazia.
Tbilisi cried foul last year after Moscow sent its S-300 missile systems to Abkhazia. It accused Russia of arming South Ossetia with the same rocket system, something Moscow denied.
Georgia has pledged to renounce force in dealing with its breakaway regions after a European Union-sponsored report showed Tbilisi as having started the 2008 war. The report said Moscow's military response went beyond reasonable limits and violated international law.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove, editing by Mark Trevelyan)
© Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.
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