UK & World News

  • 7 March 2014, 10:30

Putin 'Repeating Georgia Tactics' In Crimea

Russia is using the same tactics to take control of Crimea as it used in efforts to annex other territories in the region, Georgia's former leader has said.

Mikheil Saakashvili told Sky News that Russia President Vladimir Putin wanted to achieve a number of unspoken aims through its involvement in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

And the 46-year-old, who served two terms as Georgia's president between 2004 and 2012, said Moscow was doing "exactly the same thing" in Crimea as it did in its 2008 conflict with Georgia.

He claimed that in both instances, Mr Putin has sent in soldiers not identified as Russian troops to provoke matters in the neighbouring countries - but claimed they were merely Russian citizens seeking to defend themselves.

"Of course this is not true, of course this is nonsense spread by Russian propaganda," he said.

"If the Ukrainian government responds now, Russia will say: 'Well those were not our troops and now we are moving in with real troops.'

"That's exactly what happened in Georgia and it's high time people who still propagate this rubbish version (of events) that we attacked first, to consider that (they have been) a victim of Russian lies.

"Putin has this plan to have occupation and annexation of territories ranging from South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea, then all the other parts of Ukraine and then Transnistria in Moldova."

Mr Saakashvili said Mr Putin had various other motives in the Ukraine crisis.

"I think President Putin has very clear goals here," he said.

"If Ukraine makes it, becomes a European and democratic state, then Russian citizens will be asking quite rightly why Russians cannot have the same, why they should live in a mafia-ridden, oligarchic, corrupt country.

"The other thing is Crimea has lots of shale gas. Actually, within the next three years, thanks to American companies, Ukraine was going to become a net exporter of gas and stop buying Russian gas.

"That would basically mean that Gazprom would lose its biggest buyer of gas in Europe."

Ukraine says Russia currently has around 16,000 troops in its Crimean territories. Kiev says the soldiers are behind the seizure of key bases in the region.

Mr Putin has claimed the gunmen responsible are merely local militias.

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