Russia Reveals Its Desire to Replace Georgian President Saakahvili …Bush Responds

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Permanent Representative at the UN, made the following remarks today on the situation in Georgia.
Khalilzad stessed that the remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov were totally unacceptable today:

I want to focus however, on one point that Ambassador Churkin made. Ambassador Churkin referred to his minister’s phone conversation with Secretary of State Rice this morning. That conversation raises serious questions about Russian objectives.

In that conversation, Foreign Minister Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rice that the democratically elected President of Georgia “must go”.

I quote again: “Saakashvili must go.”

This is completely unacceptable and crosses a line. I want to ask Ambassador Churkin, is your government’s objective regime change in Georgia, the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Georgia. Mr. President, Russia must affirm their aim is not to change the democratically elected government of Georgia and it accepts the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia .

Later today President Bush responded to the Russian Minister’s comments (video here):

I am deeply concerned by reports that Russian troops have moved beyond the zone of conflict, attacked the Georgian town of Gori, and are threatening the Georgia’s — Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi. There’s evidence that Russian forces may soon begin bombing the civilian airport in the capital city.

If these reports are accurate, these Russian actions would represent a dramatic and brutal escalation of the conflict in Georgia. And these actions would be inconsistent with assurances we have received from Russia that its objectives were limited to restoring the status quo in South Ossetia that existed before fighting began on August the 6th.

It now appears that an effort may be underway to depose Georgia’s duly elected government. Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century.

John McCain warned the Russians of “severe, long-term negative consequences” during his tough statement today.

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