Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has warned that Russian price pressure on gas customers can be directed not only against his country but threaten EU members as well. He was addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Russia has often been accused of using state- controlled utility Gazprom as a political weapon to keep ex-Soviet neighbours in line.
The EU itself is jittery over the security of its energy supplies from Russia. But even with Tbilisi-Moscow relations at a low, Saakashvili took a relaxed stance: “We are basically talking about 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas for this winter which most of it goes to the households and it is not much at all. And it is not tragic at all and I think we can find a way to go around this political price.”
Georgia is seeking EU support. Its breakaway South Ossetia region has just overwhelmingly endorsed its separatist agenda in a referendum. Saakashvili also reaffirmed the Caucasus republic’s long-term ambition to join the European Union – just the sort of remark that has raised hackles in the Kremlin.
Georgia and the West have called the referendum illegal. Russia has said the result should be respected. Local people in the separatists’ capital, Tskhinvali, celebrated the win for the “Yes” vote, waving their own and Russian flags. Georgia’s relations with Russia have been severely strained since Tbilisi detained four Russian army officers on spying charges in September, provoking sharp retaliatory actions. But Saakashvili struck a conciliatory note in Strasbourg, saying Georgia stood ready to negotiate on all differences with Moscow.