Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili said in an interview with Rustavi 2 television on Sunday that the Parliament should definitely pass a resolution demanding the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping forces, but he warned that Tbilisi should not yield to any provocations that might follow the implementation of this decision by the Parliament.
“One thing is clear, for me and for many those parliamentarians who will support this decision and who represent the majority - it is impossible to stop this decision and this process is irreversible,” Okruashvili said.
“Another issue is how this decision will materialize in reality. When we think about it and when we analyze this, naturally, we take into consideration all the factors and scenarios of possible developments. The most important thing is that we should not become players in someone’s game. We, ourselves, should set the rules of the game and we should offer these rules,” he said.
During the interview Okruashvili also spoke about the possible scenarios that may develope after the Parliament demand that the Russian peacekeepers withdraw.
“It is not ruled out that the day after the mechanisms for implementing this decision [on the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeepers] are put into operation, Russia will say that it is not going to leave the region and messages of this kind have already appeared - I mean statements by some mid-level Russian officials, who say that they should protect the interests of their [Russian] citizens who live in the region,” Okruashvili stated.
“But I also do not rule out that Russia, amid international pressure, might put up with the idea that they should leave the region and they might formally withdraw from the region. But they can transform forces, presently located there [in South Ossetia] into illegal Ossetian armed group,” he said.
“But I also think that Russia is not currently in the position to risk and take steps which will place it in the role of occupier, especially on the eve of the G8 summit,” Okruashvili added.
Okruashvili also commented on a recent warning voiced by the U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE, who said on February 9 that the demand to pull out Russian peacekeepers from South Ossetian “without anything in their place may be destabilizing.”
“We often receive advice from our foreign partners and not only from the U.S. And we also give this advice to ourselves as well: we should not yield to any kind of provocation that might lead to such an escalation [of tensions] that might be disastrous. This advice might be given not only by Americans, but by any Georgian citizen as well,” the Georgian Defense Minister said.
Okruashvili also said that despite criticism voiced against him for his extremely strong-worded rhetoric against the South Ossetian leadership, he will never name Eduard Kokoity, President of unrecognized republic, “as a partner.”
“He is an ordinary cheater… Approximately eight months ago, one of the Russian law enforcement agencies - later I can even name the Russian officer who was in charge of this - allocated USD 9 million for infrastructure rehabilitation in Tskhinvali [capital of breakaway South Ossetia]. Naturally, these funds, like many other donations, disappeared. About two weeks after this, Kokoity bought an apartment for USD 8.5 million in one of Moscow’s most famous and prestigious districts. So the conclusion is very simple: even Kokoity thinks that his days [in South Ossetia] are numbered,” Okruashvili said.
Okruashvili reiterated that the Georgian armed forces are able “to neutralize all those threats which might come from the armed groups located in Georgia’s uncontrolled territories.”
“Those armored vehicles, which were run back and forth in recent days by [Maj. Gen. Marat] Kulakhmetov [Commander of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces], pose absolutely no threat to the Georgian armed forces from a military point of view,” Okruashvili said.