Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 17:37 UK

Russia praises EU over sanctions

A Russian soldier stands near Georgian protesters in Karaleti
Russian forces are still present on Georgian territory

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has welcomed as "realistic" an EU decision not to impose sanctions on his country over its recent invasion of Georgia.

But Mr Medvedev said it was "sad" that the EU, which held a crisis summit, still did not understand what motivated Russia into sending in troops.

EU leaders decided to suspend talks on a strategic pact with Russia until its troops were withdrawn from Georgia.

Tensions between Russia and the West soared in the wake of the conflict.

In an interview with the Euronews television channel, Mr Medvedev said the outcome of the EU meeting was "double-edged".

"Firstly, unfortunately, there is still no understanding of what motivated Russia to make decisions on repelling the Georgian aggression and recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states," he said.

But, he added, a "reasonable, realistic point of view prevailed because some of the states were calling for some mythical sanctions".

Moscow says it sent troops into Georgia to halt an attempt by Georgia to restore control over South Ossetia, which broke away in the 1990s.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who stepped down as president earlier this year, praised the European Union's "common sense".

But he warned that Moscow would respond to the growing presence of Nato warships in the Black Sea, where Russia's navy fleet has a huge presence.

He did not give any details.

EU condemnation

Following Monday's emergency summit in Brussels, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said it was clear it could not "continue as if nothing had happened".

European leaders had been deeply divided on how to respond to Russia's intervention in Georgia, and aware - as Moscow's main trading partner - of their dependence on Russian gas and oil.

Nicolas Sarkozy announces the EU's decision (1 September 2008)
Mr Sarkozy said the EU had to re-examine its relationship with Russia

The EU agreed to condemn Russia's move to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

It also announced it was prepared to send hundreds of civilian monitors to Georgia to check if Russia was abiding by the EU-brokered ceasefire agreement.

Under the agreement, Russia must pull back its troops to their positions before the conflict.

Georgia's President, Mikhail Saakashvili, pointed to the freezing of the EU-Russia partnership talks as a show of Western solidarity with Georgia.

"Russia failed to break the unity at the heart of Europe," he said in an interview with a French television channel.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who helped broker the accord, is due to travel to Moscow and Tbilisi next Monday along with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana for talks with the Russian and Georgian governments.

With the crisis in Georgia, relations between the EU and Russia have reached a crossroads
EU Council statement

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, in an article published on Tuesday, said Russia would suffer politically and militarily for its intervention in neighbouring Georgia.

"It has made short-term military gains, but over time it will feel economic and political losses. If Russia truly wants respect and influence, it must change course," Mr Miliband wrote in the Irish Examiner.

China was urging Russia and Georgia to resolve their conflict through "dialogue and consultation", foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told journalists in Beijing.

Fighting between Russia and Georgia began on 7 August after the Georgian military tried to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia by force.

Russian forces launched a counter-attack and the conflict ended with the ejection of Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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