Russia Rejects Cease-Fire With Georgia

Russian heavy-armored vehicles in the Ardon Valley, Russia, heading towards the Georgian border and South Ossetia on Aug. 9, 2008. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel
Russia refused to agree to a cease-fire or a diplomatic agreement Saturday, ensuring that the fighting with Georgia would keep spilling over to other regions such as Abkhazia's Kodori Ridge, where 15 U.N. military observers were told to evacuate.

"A cease-fire would not be a solution. The fighting is still going on. The Georgian forces are continuing to be on the South Ossetian territory," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said. "All those actions and signals we have seen are not things which would not be conducive to a cease-fire."

As the fighting over the breakaway region of South Ossetia spread, the diplomatic standoff continued Saturday in the United Nations Security Council, which met for the third time since late Thursday night to try to help resolve the situation.

Negotiations were intense as the council dynamics mainly pitted Russia against the other 14 council members led by the United States, an ally of Georgia, who were pressing for a cease-fire that respects Georgia's sovereignty, diplomats said. Russia, the U.S., Britain, France and China are the five nations with council veto power.

At the core of this conflict is Russian mistrust of Georgia's western leanings and its desire to join NATO, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.

"This conflict is expanding, this conflict is escalating," U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff told reporters.

Churkin also said "the fighting is spreading" and thousands were killed since Georgia launched a major military offensive to maintain control of South Ossetia, a separatist area of Georgia, and then Russian troops and tanks rumbled in.

"The Georgian forces must pull out of South Ossetia," he said. "And then they must accept the need to sign an agreement on nonuse of force with South Ossetians."

Many of the council members who met in private chambers appealed for an immediate cease-fire and "expressed grave concern on the further deterioration of the situation," said Belgian Ambassador Jan Grauls, the council president this month. "And it is clear that the conflict has now expanded to other areas of Georgia than only South Ossetia."

Georgia is not a member, but its ambassador has attended some of the council meetings over the past three days.

Despite diminishing hopes, the council plans to keep trying for an agreement in the form of a unanimous public statement.

"Regrettably, I have come to the conclusion it will be very difficult if not impossible to find common ground in the council on a draft statement to the press," Grauls said.

After his closed-door briefing to the council, Edmond Mulet, assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said the U.N. was immediately pulling out the military observers in Kodori on advice from Abkhazia, where a military offensive was imminent.

The northern part of the gorge is the only area of northern Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia republic that has remained under Georgian government control.

The U.N. observers patrolled Kodori due to bloodshed between Georgia and Abkhazia in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Russia, which backs the Abkhazia separatists, insists Georgian troops must withdraw from Kodori. Russia warns the U.S.-allied Georgia's moves toward joining NATO bolster the separatists in Abhkazia and South Ossetia.

"At this point we are particularly concerned that the conflict appears to be spreading beyond South Ossetia into Abkhazia," Mulet said, adding that Abkhazia had warned of preparations for "a military operation in the Upper Kodori Valley, probably tomorrow morning."