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Putin Seeks Advantage Ahead of Talks with Saakashvili

Whilst cordial, the Russian and Georgian presidents seemed intent on gaining the pyschological upperhand while speaking to the press shortly before their tete-a-tete meeting in St Petersburg on June 9.

President Putin, opened the exchange by expressing regret over, as he put it, ?electricity problems? in Georgia. ?I know that, unfortunately,” he said, “now there are problems with supply of electricity and we hope Georgian electricity technicians will solve the problem soon.?

Georgia, unusually, had been blacked out for a few hours late on June 8, after a high-voltage power line was damaged. A constant electricity supply is one of President Saakashvili’s more tangible results since coming to office.

Saakashvili re-focused the banter, telling his counterpart that he wished for “friendly relations based on mutual respect and respect of territorial integrity and based on mutual respect of each others’ interests.”

Putin, however, picking up on a comment by the Georgian president that he had “been closely watching your participation and your statements made at the G8 summit” was in a combatative mood.

He said it came as no surprise to him that Georgia would have a strong interest in Russia?s position vis-a-vis Kosovo?s future political status.

?I had no doubt that you would pay attention to our position in discussions about fundamental principles of international law,” he said. “You know that we have always based our position on the necessity to follow the fundamental principle of the territorial integrity of the state.? 

?Unfortunately,” he said, “there are attempts to ignore this fundamental principle. Of course it creates problems for us in the post-Soviet space. I think we will be able to return back [to discussion] of this issue during our conversation now and also tomorrow [at an informal CIS summit].? 

Western support for an independent Kosovo would be, the Russian position has been for some time, a precedent for other breakaway regions, particularly Abkhazia and South Ossetia. 


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