PRAGUE – Prominent writers and former national leaders, warning of a new wall across Europe, have urged the European Union to help Georgia regain control of two breakaway regions now protected by Russian troops.
One of the regions, South Ossetia, was the flashpoint in a brief war between Russia and Georgia last year. Neither South Ossetia nor the other region, Abkhazia, has been under the control of the Georgian government since the early 1990s.
The signatories of an open letter published Tuesday in several European newspapers warned that, 20 years after the fall of communism, "a new wall is being built in Europe — this time across the sovereign territory of Georgia."
The letter urged the 27 leaders of European Union countries "to help Georgia peacefully regain its territorial integrity and obtain the withdrawal of Russian forces illegally stationed on Georgian soil."
The letter was initiated by French philosopher Andre Glucksmann. It was signed by 12 people, including former Czech President Vaclav Havel, former leaders of Lithuania and Estonia, and another French philosopher, Bernard Henri-Levy.
After Russia and Georgia clashed last year, South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence. Only Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have recognized them as independent, however. And Russia has posted thousands of troops in both regions.
"Are we willing to tolerate the de facto annexation of foreign territories by a larger power?" the letter asked.
Havel, who led the Velvet Revolution that toppled communism in Czechoslovakia, cautioned against appeasing Russia.
"We should not turn a blind eye," he told the Associated Press. "It's a big test for the West."