Ukraine demands explanations from Georgia

Ukraine is demanding immediate explanations from Georgia in the wake of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's statement about Adzharia hiring Ukrainian mercenaries.

Chief spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry Markian Lubkivsky said on Thursday that First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Yelchenko had said this yesterday.

"The Ukrainian side is indignant at Mr. Saakashvili's statement that the Adzharian leadership is allegedly in negotiations to hire certain Ukrainian and Chechen mercenaries to reinforce its bandit formations," Mr. Yelchenko said at a meeting with Georgian Ambassador Grigol Katamadze who was urgently summoned to the Ukrainian foreign ministry.

Considering the long-standing partnership between Ukraine and Georgia, and the assistance that Ukraine repeatedly provided to Georgia, "the Ukrainian side has bluntly denied even the hypothetical opportunity of such a statement by the Georgian authorities," the Ukrainian foreign ministry's press service quoted Mr. Yelchenko as saying.

He also emphasized that such an accusation was even more surprising against the background of the efforts that Ukraine is making to settle the conflict situation in another Georgian area - Abkhazia (self-proclaimed republic of Georgia).

In this connection, the first deputy Ukrainian foreign minister demanded "immediate explanations" from the Georgian side. Mr. Katamadze assured Mr. Yelchenko that the Ukrainian side's concern would be conveyed to the Georgian authorities.

When commenting on Mr. Yelchenko's meeting with Mr. Katamadze, the chief spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry noted, "Ukraine is a party to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their protocols of 1977, and also the 1989 International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, and strictly sticks to assumed obligations in line with these international legal documents." Moreover, Mr. Lubkivsky said the Ukrainian Criminal Code envisaged criminal punishment for recruiting, financing and training of mercenaries, and also participation in armed conflicts in other countries, unauthorized by the relevant state bodies, for money.

On Wednesday, March 24, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili told reporters that the Adzharian leadership was negotiating the hiring of mercenaries from Ukraine and Chechnya "to reinforce its bandit formations." On the same day, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Movsar Khamidov said the Chechen government had no information about any negotiations with the Adzharian leadership over "the Chechen mercenaries."

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