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  Thursday, December 12, 2019
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Georgia wants to find peaceful solutions to its disputes with Russia,
Georgia wants to find peaceful solutions to its disputes with Russia, but will retaliate against any aggressive actions from Moscow, a deputy defense minister warned on Saturday.

Georgia has accused Russia of attempting to annex two Georgian breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, since Moscow announced plans to strengthen links with the provinces.

Batu Kuteliya, commenting on a Russian Foreign Ministry statement saying Russia would seek to support its citizens in the two republics, said: "Russia's actions are provocative, and are pushing the situation toward a renewal of military action."

Georgia will do everything to avoid a conflict, but "when it comes to aggressive acts against Georgia, we reiterate that no act of aggression will go unanswered from the Georgian side," the official said in a statement broadcast on national TV.

"On Georgia's territory, we have not only rights, but obligations to protect our citizens," he added.

A senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said on Friday he believed Georgia could use force in the near future over Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Georgia's May 21 parliamentary election looms.

Valery Kenyaikin, the Russian ambassador at large, said an outside enemy is needed to whip up support for the upcoming election campaign, and that Abkhazia along with South Ossetia could provide an ideal opportunity.

"The danger [of Georgia's military aggression] exists and could be realized in the near future," the official told a news conference.

The Russian diplomat said that an unmanned Georgian aircraft recently shot down over Abkhazia had a number of uses, including directing artillery fire.

Georgia claims that last Sunday a Russian MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter from the Gudauta military base in Abkhazia, where Russian peacekeepers have been stationed since the end of a bloody conflict in the early 1990s, shot down a Georgian drone.

The incident sparked a new dispute, following Russian President Vladimir Putin's calls last week for closer ties with Georgia's two breakaway provinces, and has plunged relations between Moscow and Tbilisi to a new low.


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