POTI – Agence France-Presse
A U.S. navy flagship carrying aid for Georgia arrived on Friday at a port close to Russian military positions, as Moscow angrily questioned why Washington chose a warship to deliver the help. The Mount Whitney, flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, is the last of three vessels sent by the United States to deliver blankets, hygiene kits, baby food and infant care supplies to Georgia after its five-day war with Russia.
The ship, which arrived in the early afternoon, was anchored around one kilometer from Poti. The Black Sea port, which was bombed by Russian jets last month, is too shallow for vessels of this size to moor against the shore.
Russian forces are still deployed at checkpoints near Poti, which was bombed by Russian jets in the conflict.
Moscow has charged that humanitarian aid shipments could be used to camouflage a NATO naval buildup in the Black Sea, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warning there would be a reaction.
"The question arises of whether the USS Mount Whitney's entry into the Black Sea conforms with the provisions of the Montreaux Convention of 1936," foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told journalists. The Montreaux Convention regulates shipping levels in the Black Sea and notably restricts the presence of naval ships from countries not having a Black Sea coastline.