Medvedev meets leaders of the former Soviet Union

Russian president warned the presidents of Ukraine and Georgia not to lead their countries into NATO.

Medvedev meets leaders of the former Soviet Union

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met on Friday with leaders of a fractious alliance of ex-Soviet republics, ranging from autocratic Kremlin allies to pro-Westerners determined to escape Moscow's shadow.

Medvedev warned the presidents of Ukraine and Georgia not to lead their countries into NATO, saying joining the alliance would hurt their relations with Russia and seriously increase tension on the edges of the former Soviet Union, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Meeting with US-allied Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, Medvedev reiterated Russia's opposition to his push to join the Western alliance, Lavrov told reporters. "The somewhat artificial inclusion of Georgia into NATO will lead to a spiral of very, very negative confrontation," he said.

Medvedev held one-on-one talks with several presidents from the 12-nation Commonwealth of Independent States at the lavish Konstantin Palace in Strelna, on the Gulf of Finland near St. Petersburg, before what was billed as an informal summit meeting later in the day. The first major CIS gathering for Medvedev since he took over from Vladimir Putin a month ago was being held amid increasing tensions between Moscow and both Ukraine and Georgia, whose leaders are trying to shed Russia's influence and bring their nations closer to Europe and the United States.

Meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Medvedev suggested that Ukrainian membership in NATO would violate a 1997 friendship treaty between the Slavic neighbors, Lavrov said. He said the treaty stipulates that neither nation should pose a security threat to the other.

"One-sided steps taken despite the essence of the agreement do not add stability to our relations," Lavrov said. Russia's parliament adopted a declaration this week urging the government to declare the friendship treaty invalid if Ukraine takes further steps toward joining NATO. Lavrov indicated that Medvedev had criticized Yushchenko over his suggestions that Ukraine would evict the Russian navy from the Black Sea port of Sevastopol when the lease runs out in 2017. Kiev's actions "are not what we would like to see from close partners," Lavrov said.

In response to Saakashvili's push to bring his small Caucasus Mountain into NATO, Russia has stepped up support for Georgia's separatist region of Abkhazia, drawing Georgian claims that Russia is moving toward annexing the province. Both nations claim the other is preparing for the use of force in the region, creating fears that conflict could erupt.

Russia has strengthened peacekeeping forces in Abkhazia that Georgia accuses of siding with the separatists, and recently drew further ire from Georgia by sending railroad troops into the region. Lavrov indicated Russia will not consider Georgia's demands for their withdrawal and said it is up to Georgia to take steps to improve relations.

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Haziran 2008, 13:59