Moscow appeals to EU ahead of Georgia talks


RUSSIA:RUSSIA HAS urged the European Union not to take drastic steps against it at Monday's emergency summit on the crisis in Georgia, reports  Daniel McLaughlin 

To this end Moscow has pledged not to cut vital oil and gas supplies to the bloc amid a sharp deterioration in relations between Russia and the West. "We hope that reason will prevail over emotions and that EU leaders will find the strength to reject a one-sided assessment of the conflict and give an independent, objective and detailed assessment of the situation and what caused it," said Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

Diplomats from major EU nations downplayed the threat of sanctions against Moscow yesterday, while Russia insisted that it would fulfil all existing energy contracts with western nations.

Deputy prime minister Igor Sechin, chairman of Russia's largest oil company, Rosneft, and a close ally of prime minister Vladimir Putin, called talk of fuel cuts a "crude provocation"."Even during the cold war, regardless of political or any other circumstances, the Soviet Union always fulfilled its contractual obligations to supply Europe with energy, and Russia, a responsible and reliable partner, adheres to the same principle," he said. Three weeks after Russian tanks crushed Georgia's attempt to retake control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, Tbilisi formally severed diplomatic ties with Moscow. All Georgian diplomats will leave Moscow, though consular services will continue. Russia responded by announcing that it would close its embassy in Tbilisi. A Belgian delegation in Georgia said it would tell France, the holder of the EU presidency, that Russia was breaching a ceasefire deal with Tbilisi by maintaining a significant military presence well outside the separatist provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose independence Moscow recognised on Tuesday. Anne-Marie Lizin, a Belgian senator, said Russian "peacekeepers" had expanded a buffer zone around the South Ossetia region by at least 15km (9½ miles).

"They are trying to create a de facto situation quickly before Monday's summit," she said.Tbilisi hopes to secure economic aid for rebuilding and political backing from the EU summit, including an easing of visa restrictions for Georgian citizens.