Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgia Peace Force Riles Duma

In a rare appearance before the State Duma on Friday, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev defended the Russian government's decision to send Russian troops to Georgia on a peacekeeping mission. "We simply cannot afford the luxury of not going on with this operation," Kozyrev said. During a 30-minute question-and-answer period he fielded angry, emotional questions from his nationalist opponents with a calm, somewhat disdainful air. "Have you forgotten how disgracefully we were kicked out of Georgia, how they humiliated our officers and raped their wives?" deputy Yevgeny Loginov shouted angrily. "How can you talk so calmly about reintroducing our troops?" "The dramatics would be more suitable at a rally," Kozyrev replied. But, explaining his stand, he appealed to the nationalist deputies' affinity for superpower politics. "There is never a vacuum," he said. "If we refuse to live up to our geopolitical role, someone else will try and clean up the mess in our home." Some deputies yelled from their seats that they would prefer someone else to do it. But Kozyrev stressed that, as a great power, Russia is obliged to help its weaker neighbors. "The people who are killing each other there are not alien to us," he said. "We lived in the same country until three years ago and we cannot simply leave them to their fate." The peacekeeping mission, now in preparation, is to be carried out under CIS auspices. Leaders of both Georgia and its secessionist northern region, Abkhazia, have asked for an intervention by CIS forces to bring peace to the ravaged region. Kozyrev confirmed the force would mostly consist of Russian troops. Brushing aside accusations of interference in Georgia's internal affairs, he said a request from both warring sides made the intervention legitimate. President Yeltsin last week ordered the Russian troops already in the area to begin the operation. He needs the approval of the parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, to send another 2,500 men to Georgia. The Federation Council is scheduled to debate the issue on June 21. In his speech, Kozyrev also said sanctions against North Korea were acceptable as an ultimate solution if North Korea rejected all attempts to resolve the crisis diplomatically.