August 27, 2008
US and Russian warships took up positions in the Black Sea today in a risky war of nerves on opposing sides of the Georgia conflict.
With the Russians effectively controlling Georgia’s main naval base of Poti, Moscow also dispatched the Moskva missile cruiser and two smaller craft on “peacekeeping” duties at the port of Sukhumi on the coast of Abkhazia, the breakaway region that the Kremlin recognised as independent yesterday.
The Americans, wary of escalating an already fraught situation, cancelled the scheduled docking in Poti of the US Coast Guard vessel, the Dallas, and instead sent it to the southern Georgian-controlled port of Batumi, 200km (124 miles) from the Russian ships, where it delivered humanitarian aid.
“Let’s hope we don’t see any direct confrontation,” said Dmitri Peskov, the spokesman for the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, as the Russians challenged the US policy of using military aircraft and ships to deliver relief supplies.