A US navy vessel bearing humanitarian aid for Georgia anchored on Friday off Poti, a Georgian Black Sea port still partially occupied by Russian forces.
The entrance of the US warship into Georgian waters risked provoking a fresh outburst from Russia, which has complained that the increasing presence of Nato vessels and US warships in the Black Sea upsets the balance of power in the region.
However, Andrei Nesterenko, an official at the Russian foreign ministry, said, “There is no talk of military action” in the Black Sea.
Two US vessels delivering humanitarian aid to Georgia last month avoided Poti, docking instead at Batumi, a port further south, outside the zone controlled by Russia during the conflict.
At the time Russia accused the US of smuggling arms to the Georgian coast under the guise of humanitarian aid deliveries.
An official at the US embassy in Tbilisi said the USS Mount Whitney was unloading aid at Poti for “logistical” reasons. Poti is larger than Batumi and is connected to Georgia’s east-west highway.
Russian warplanes destroyed a military base near Poti and sank several Georgian vessels in nearby waters during the conflict with Georgia over the separatist republic of South Ossetia last month.
The US and the European Union have condemned Russia’s continuing occupation of Poti as a breach of the French-brokered ceasefire agreement signed by Russia and Georgia.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s permanent representative at Nato, warned this week that Russia would use military methods to track US vessel movements in the Black Sea.
However, Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian defence expert, said, “I am sure Russia will not take any military action. No one wants an escalation.”
Huge capital flight from Russia and plunging Russian stock prices in the aftermath of the Georgian conflict would, in any case, diminish Moscow’s appetite for confrontation, he said.
The Mount Whitney’s arrival at Poti coincided with a visit by Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, to Ukraine, which, like Georgia, has angered Moscow by striving to join Nato.
During talks with Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian president, on Friday, Mr Cheney discounted Russian opposition to the eastward expansion of the alliance.
“No outside country gets to veto,” he said.
Yushchenko has challenged Moscow by proposing to change the terms of a lease agreement under which the Russia bases its Black Sea fleet at the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.
Serge Bagapsh, president of Georgia’s breakaway enclave of Abkhazia, has invited Russia temporarily to base its Black Sea fleet at Sukhumi on the Abkhazian coast
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