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Georgia Approves Provisional Deal With Russia

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

After five days of fighting, Russia has agreed on a provisional peace plan with Georgia. Conditions on the ground are still volatile, so it's far from clear how negotiations on any lasting deal will proceed, as NPR's Gregory Feifer reports.

GREGORY FEIFER: When Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made his announcement ending Russia's offensive against Georgia yesterday, he said Moscow had won a decisive military victory.

President DMITRY MEDVEDEV (Russia): (Russian spoken)

FEIFER: The aggressor, Medvedev said, has been punished.

Medvedev then met French President Nicolas Sarkozy, also president of the European Union, who had arrived in Moscow to broker a peace agreement. When both men later appeared at a joint news conference, Sarkozy said the two sides had agreed not on a peace deal, but on a provisional cease-fire, which he called a considerable progress.

President NICOLAS SARKOZY (France): (Through translator) We have tried to find solutions on paper that would allow us short-term means to achieve an agreement so that there would be a definite cessation of hostilities.

FEIFER: Medvedev appeared angry. He said Russia recognized Georgia's sovereignty, but he lashed out against Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, calling him a liar and a lunatic.

Pres. MEDVEDEV: (Russian spoken)

FEIFER: Lunatics differ from other people because when they smell blood, it's very difficult to stop them, Medvedev said. You have to use surgery.

Sarkozy immediately left Moscow for talks in Tbilisi, where he convinced Saakashvili to approve the provisional deal. The agreement calls for all forces to return to positions they held before hostilities broke out last Thursday. Both sides say they want international monitoring of an agreement on the ground. But negotiations ahead will be very difficult.

Russia controls Georgia's pro-Moscow breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But at a joint news conference with Sarkozy last night, Saakashvili said Georgia's territorial integrity cannot be in doubt.

President MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI (Georgia): (Through translator) The territorial integrity and belonging of South Ossetia to Abkhazia to Georgia can never be put under doubt under any kind of international prose. This is out of question.

FEIFER: In Moscow yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reissued Moscow's hard-line conditions for any agreement with Georgia.

Mr. SERGEY LAVROV (Foreign Minister, Russia): (Russian spoken)

FEIFER: Lavrov said he hoped President Medvedev wouldn't even talk to Saakashvili, who he said should step down. He also told reporters much of the blame for the violence in Georgia lay with the West for having supported Tbilisi.

In Brussels today, European Union ministers are meeting to approve Sarkozy's deal. They're also debating the consequences of the five-day conflict. As the West considers what Russia's attack on Georgia means for its place in the world, what happens next in Georgia is far from certain.

Gregory Feifer, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Gregory Feifer
Gregory Feifer reports for NPR from Moscow, covering Russia's resurgence under President Vladimir Putin and the country's transition to the post-Putin era. He files from other former Soviet republics and across Russia, where he's observed the effects of the country's vast new oil wealth on an increasingly nationalistic society as well as Moscow's rekindling of a new Cold War-style opposition to the West.
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