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IN THE NEWS - Georgia Attack Heightens Concerns About Wider Aims of Russia

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Russia has come under increasing international pressure in the week since it attacked Georgia. That followed a Georgian attempt to take control of the capital of South Ossetia, a pro-Russian area.

Russian soldiers on a tank near the Georgian city of Gori on Thursday
Russian soldiers on a tank near the Georgian city of Gori on Thursday

The number of dead in the conflict is disputed. But Georgia and Russia estimate that more than one hundred thousand people have been displaced. International aid has reached some areas but not many.

On Friday, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili signed a cease-fire agreement negotiated by France. At the same time, he criticized the West for not doing more to defend his country.

Georgia has been seeking to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. President Saakashvili said Russia had been planning its attack since NATO decided in April to delay action on Georgian membership.

American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi on Friday
American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi on Friday

With him in Tbilisi was American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She said the most urgent task now is the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces.

In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the way is now open for a Security Council resolution to end the crisis.

Russia and Georgia blame each other for the hostilities and are considering ways to bring war crimes charges against one another.

Georgia says it launched an offensive against separatists in South Ossetia last week after coming under Russian fire. Russia says it acted to protect its citizens in Ossetia. North Ossetia was put within Russian borders after the Soviet Union collapsed in nineteen ninety-one.

The recent violence has been the worst since South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in nineteen ninety-two. The next year, pro-Russian separatists in another area, Abkhazia, took control of most of that territory.

President George Bush said the United States will use air and naval forces to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Georgian people.

Also, the presidents of Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia visited Tbilisi on Tuesday. These countries and Georgia were all under Soviet control during the Cold War. The Soviets also used force in Hungary in nineteen fifty-six and in Czechoslovakia in sixty-eight.

Today, some experts believe Russia, under former president and now prime minister Vladimir Putin, may be moving in a similar direction.

American and many European officials saw the Russian move in Georgia as an act of aggression against a democratic country. But many experts say the ability of the West to influence Russia is limited. The United States and the European Union still need Russia's cooperation on international issues.

On Friday, President Bush declared that "Moscow must honor its commitment to withdraw its invading forces from all Georgian territory." He said Russia has damaged its international relations. In his words: "The Cold War is over. The days of satellite states and spheres of influence are behind us."

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.

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