Feb 19, 2011

Russia's illegal occupation of Georgia must end

AFP - A Georgian lawmaker has scaled two of the tallest mountains on the American continent in a high-altitude protest against the presence of Russian forces in his country, he said on Friday.

Lawmaker Gia Tortladze said he had climbed Aconcagua (6,959 metres/22,831 feet) and Ojos del Salado (6,893 metres/22,614 feet) in the Andes last month.

On each peak he left Georgian flags and leaflets denouncing the "Russian occupation" of parts of his country after the 2008 war between the ex-Soviet neighbours.

"I want to deliver a political message: Russia's illegal occupation of Georgia must end," he told AFP.

Fifty-year-old Tortladze is an experienced mountaineer who has conquered Mount Everest twice, as well as being an opposition lawmaker in the Georgian parliament.

An exhibition of photographs from his alpine expeditions opened at a gallery in Tbilisi on Friday.

Russian troops poured into Georgia in 2008 to repel Tbilisi's attempt to reassert control over the Moscow-backed rebel region of South Ossetia, and since then Russia has permanently stationed forces in both South Ossetia and another disputed Moscow-backed region, Abkhazia.

The Georgian government and some of its Western allies have described this as occupation, but Russia, which has controversially recognised both regions as independent states, insists that they are no longer part of Georgia.

Source: France 24, International News