THOUGH the Foreign Affairs Ministry has released a rather carefully–worded statement on the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia, representatives of the Slovak National Party (SNS), a junior member of the ruling coalition, have laid the blame for the fighting on the small country in the Caucasus.
This has led to the opposition and political analysts accusing Prime Minister Robert Fico and the SNS of currying favour with Russia, which controls oil and gas pipelines vital to Slovakia.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry went out of its way to state that Slovakia has long supported Georgian sovereignity and its recognised borders.
“All steps that threaten this are unacceptable,” it stated on August 14. “The Slovak Republic has always rejected the use of force to solve conflicts, including the disputes over South Ossetia and Abkhazia."
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ján Škoda also said that Slovakia supports the mediations currently led by French officials.
He added that Slovakia would support the deployment of an EU peacekeeping mission, if requested.
Škoda told The Slovak Spectator that it was unnecessary to elaborate on the FAM’s stance any further.
But Prime Minister Fico told journalists on August 13 that the situation is not as black and white as some are making it out to be.
“This conflict was provoked, and we know by whom," Fico said. "Then there was a reaction, a forceful one."
Anna Belousovová, the first vice-chairperson of the SNS, has criticised the media for allegedly biased reporting on the conflict.
She pointed out that Georgia attacked the capital of South Ossetia first, and she accused Georgian troops of committing genocide.
She also alleged that the Slovak media of taking part in a global information campaign against Russia.
“Our media presents nothings but a pro-Western, pro-American stance,” she said on August 13.
Škoda also noted that Slovakia has sent Sk5.6 million (€185,886) in humanitarian aid requested by the Georgia government.
Ivo Samson, an analyst with the Society for Foreign Policy, told The Slovak Spectator that it is difficult to distinguish whether Georgia or Russia is to blame for the deaths caused by the conflict.
He added that foreign political analysts agree that Russia supported the separatist movement in South Ossetia and Abkhazia for several years, which was an assault on Georgia’s sovereignty.
Samson said the one thing still puzzling many anlysts is why Georgia allowed itself to be provoked this time, and tried to resolve the issue of South Ossetia through military means.
"The analysts condemn (Georgian President Mikhail) Saakashvili for having reacted to these military provocations in the way Russia wanted him to,” Samson said.
Samson continued that it is ironic that Russia is defending South Ossetia and Abkhazia's right to self–determination while insisting that Kosovo not have the right to declare indpendence from Serbia.
“This is a large ideological leap, and a total reversal of past stances,” Samson said.
A special flight was chartered on August 11 to bring 14 Slovaks back from Georgia.
The flight was arranged by Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, who approved it on August 10.
The plane took off from the Armenian capital, Yerevan, because the airport in Tbilisi was closed. Some Slovaks stayed in Georgia despite the fighting, Škoda said.
The conflict began on August 8, when Georgian forces tried to take control of the restive, pro–Russian South Ossetia region.
Moscow responded swiftly with troops, tanks, and planes.
Russia rejected Georgia’s proposals of a ceasefire, choosing instead to attack Georgian territory.
Russian troops from Abkhazia drove deep into
Georgian territory, at one point coming within 20 kilometres of the capital.
The North-Georgian town of Gori was flooded by more Russian troops on August 14, according to the ČTK newswire, which cited information from the Georgian Foreign Affairs Ministry.
According to ČTK, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov said on August 14: “This talk of Georgian territorial integrity can be forgotten.”
Lavrov added that South Ossetia and Abkhazia will hardly agree to be integrated into Georgia again.
This was confirmed by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who also said on August 14 that Russia would support South Ossetia and Abkhazia in their separation from Georgia.
There is no sign that his position on this has changed.