Georgian Ambassador to U.S.: Russian Attack Resembles Past Soviet Invasions
WASHINGTON – Russia has wrought on Georgia a "full-scale military aggression" on a par with Soviet invasions or Nazi Germany's occupation of Poland and Czechoslovakia, Georgia's ambassador to the United States told FOX News on Tuesday.
Georgian Amb. Vasil Sikharuldize visited Capitol Hill Tuesday to give a closed-door briefing to House staff about the situation in his country. Last week, Russia invaded the former Soviet Republic, which has been a strong U.S. ally in Iraq and has been seeking collective protection as a NATO member.
In an exclusive interview Sikharuldize said that full diplomatic action is underway but he's not certain it will have any impact on the Russian government to ease its assault.
"It's exactly like Hungary, 1956. It's exactly like Czechoslovakia, 1968. It is like Afghanistan invasion. It is like Nazi Germany invasion of Czechoslovakia and Poland. So this is the full-scale Russian military intervention, military aggression on its neighbor," Sikharuldize said.
Russia claims its military occupation is aimed at protecting residents of the breakaway region of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which have large Russian ethnic populations. The two regions have self-governed since the 1990s, refusing to recognize Georgia's sovereignty over them.
Russia, which wants to claim the two regions, has said its peacekeepers are there to protect the populations from Georgian government forces. Local rebels have been fighting against the Georgian government and were out in force as the Russian military occupation has occurred.
"The full-scale military aggression against the country is aimed to destroy country and to overthrow the government of this democratic country on its knees," Sikharuldize said. "The Russian aggression continues as we speak and their air force is still bombing civilian and military targets and people are still dying. And we think this madness should be stopped."
Expressing solidarity with Georgia were both U.S. administration officials and House leaders.
One official, speaking on background, said the main message being conveyed to Russia is that "this it is not 1968," Russian forces cannot remain in Georgia and Russia cannot repeat this behavior with its neighbors
The official said the United States has been trying to quell this potential "flare up" for months, advising Georgia not to be provoked and asking Russia not to provoke. However, officials were not able to "look into a crystal ball and know what Russia was trying to do."
A statement by the bipartisan leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives said Congress "stands united in condemning — in the strongest possible terms — the recent Russian invasion of the sovereign state of Georgia. The United States is committed to Georgia’s absolute sovereignty, and we reject the Russian Foreign Minister’s reported assertion that democratically-elected President Mikheil Saakashvili ‘must go.’"
The statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Minority Leader John Boehner and Minority Whip Roy Blunt said the international community "must remain vigilant in ensuring that the nation’s territorial integrity is restored."
The U.S. has asked for cease-fire terms to include an immediate stop to all military activity and no interference with Georgian ports or roads.
The ambassador told FOX News the No. 1 issue for Georgia is to institute and maintain the cease fire that Russia said it would observe. Despite a televised order by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Russia launched an offensive Tuesday in Abkhazia, sending tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery toward the area.
The ambassador said he had reports of military planes bombing Georgian targets as of Tuesday afternoon, Eastern Daylight Time.
"Second issue is as we see for the safety of everybody. We have to demilitarize these zones and have a genuine, international peacekeeping force there. Russian troops are nothing but occupiers there," Sikharuldize said, adding that he hasn't given hope "that they will stop this madness."
FOX News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.