Georgia-Russia Shaky Cease Fire

Russia responded angrily to President Bush's harsh words this morning about their handling of the situation in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where Russian and Georgian troops have been fighting since last week.

Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, told reporters that Washington was playing a dangerous game by supporting Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili.

"We understand that this current Georgian leadership is a special project of the United States, but one day the United States will have to choose between defending its prestige over a virtual project or real partnership which requires joint action," Lavrov said.

While the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, was meeting at Meiendorf Castle with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, Lavrov minced no words in his criticism of Bush's remarks, calling it the work of "bad speech writers."

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"Frankly speaking, once again I was surprised by the skills of the speech writers who prepared the statement of the U.S. president," Lavrov said.

"Bush's speech said nothing of how Georgia was armed all these years, including by the United States," he said, adding, "We have more than once warned our partners that this is a dangerous game."

The fighting erupted last week following an attack by Georgian troops on Thursday on the pro-Russian enclave of South Ossetia.

Earlier today, President Bush, responding to reports that the Russians were not abiding by a cease-fire warned Russia to "keep its word" and end attacks on Georgia, as he dispatched a military plane loaded with supplies for Georgian refugees.

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The president spoke briefly in the White House Rose Garden after Georgian officials accused Russia of violating the cease-fire both sides agreed to on Tuesday.

"To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis," Bush said.

He announced that he will send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Paris and then Tblisi to help negotiate the peace plan and to show the administration's "unwavering support" for the Georgian government.

"The United States stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia and insists that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected," Bush said.

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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who was standing next to the president and Rice, is to coordinate humanitarian relief in the region.

A U.S. C-17 military cargo plane, loaded with supplies, arrived in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi today with a second flight scheduled for Thursday. Bush said that Russia must ensure that "all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, roads and airports" remain open to let deliveries and civilians through.

He expressed his concern at reports that Russian forces were active around the eastern side of Gori, a key town in central Georgia. Reports said that militias from the adjacent province of South Ossetia were looting the town.

"Russia has also stated that it has halted military operations and has agreed to a provisional cease-fire," Bush said. "Unfortunately we've been receiving reports of Russian actions that are inconsistent with these statements."

The White House said that Bush was delaying a planned vacation trip to his Texas ranch to for a "couple days" to monitor the situation. He was scheduled to leave Washington on Thursday.

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