TBILISI – Agence France-Presse
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks with journalists during his visit to he Black sea beach outside the village of Ganmuxuri. AFP photo.
Georgia said Monday that a visit by the mayor of Moscow to its rebel South Ossetia region was "immoral" and criticized the opening of a new settlement in the province named after the Russian capital.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov was visiting South Ossetia to inaugurate a new suburb - dubbed the Moskovsky district - outside the region's main city, Tskhinvali. Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister David Jalagania said Luzhkov's visit was in violation of international law and that the new suburb had been built on the ruins of an ethnic Georgian village, Tamarasheni, whose residents fled the region during last year's war over South Ossetia.
"The conduction of such a ceremony together with the Tskhinvali criminal regime is absolutely immoral... and even the Nazis did not think of building a settlement and naming it Berlin," Jalagania told journalists in Tbilisi.
Luzhkov, whose government has pledged millions of dollars in aid to South Ossetia, praised the new settlement as part of efforts to rebuild the heavily damaged breakaway region. "We can give housing to needy people, who have lost their fathers, sons and defenders, who defended the country from the aggressor. The Moskovsky district has civilised modern infrastructure, heating, water and everything that is necessary," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying at the opening ceremony.
Russia sent tanks and troops into Georgia in August 2008 to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake South Ossetia, which had received extensive backing from Moscow for years. Russian troops mostly withdrew within South Ossetia and another rebel Georgian region, Abkhazia, after Moscow recognized both provinces as independent states.
Russia has kept thousands of troops and pumped millions of dollars into the regions, drawing repeated protests from Tbilisi.