Russia called Saturday for more international observers to be sent to Georgia, two days before a European Union summit that Tbilisi hopes will punish Moscow with sanctions. The appeal for stronger European monitoring in Georgia came as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin urged EU leaders to show "common sense" at the summit on Monday and ignore calls for sanctions.
Leaders of the 27-nation EU are seeking to agree on a response to Russia's military surge into Georgia and the decision to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Georgia called for sanctions on Russian leaders after breaking off diplomatic relations with Moscow in protest at the decision to recognize the secessionist territories.
But in an apparent conciliatory gesture, President Dmitry Medvedev told British Prime Minister Gordon Brown during a phone conversation that Russia wants more OSCE observers to be sent to Georgia, a Kremlin statement said.
The West sees the presence of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as critical to the success of the French-brokered ceasefire that ended five days of fighting between Georgian and Russian forces.
The 56-nation OSCE decided this month to send up to 100 observers to Georgia. Some 20 observers are currently on the ground.
Russia "calls for the dispatch of additional OSCE observers to the security zone and setting up an impartial monitoring of the acts of the Georgian government," said the Kremlin statement.
Russian troops entered Georgia on August 8 to push back Georgian troops attempting to restore control over South Ossetia.
Russia halted a five-day offensive into Georgia but has failed to withdraw all its troops, saying they are on a peacekeeping mission. Tbilisi has labeled them an occupation force.
Medvedev reiterated that Russia was "in full compliance with the six principles" of a ceasefire deal, despite calls from the West for further withdrawals.
Putin said Russian troops "of course will leave these positions where we are now... We will not remain there forever."
Acknowledging Russia was concerned about calls for sanctions or other harsh measures from some EU governments, he told Germany's ARD television: "If I were to say that we don't care, that we were indifferent, I would be lying."
Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili called for Russian leaders to be punished with targeted sanctions.
"There is no point in isolating Russia.
"But we expect certain sanctions, which won't be against the people, but against the political elite," he said in Tbilisi.
The minister did not specify what the sanctions could involve, although such measures often include travel bans or the freezing of overseas bank accounts.
Georgia on Saturday also imposed visa restrictions on Russian citizens, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman saying it was a tit-for-tat measure. The new visa regime will take effect on Sept 8.
Putin rejected suggestions from French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that other former Soviet republics -- in particular Ukraine -- could be Russia's next target.
"We have long ago recognized the borders of modern-day Ukraine," he said.
Speaking by telephone Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier "agreed on the need to put an end to attempts to use the situation surrounding Georgia... to raise tensions in Europe by speculating on non-existent threats concerning other post-Soviet countries," a statement from the Russian foreign ministry said.
Georgian vice-premier Giorgi Baramidze said the Russian incursion, which he blamed on Tbilisi's NATO aspirations, would bring his country closer to membership of the western military alliance.
"I would not be surprised if this (integration) process would be going even quicker," Baramidze told reporters. "I think there should be an adequate reaction by NATOÂ to (Russia's incursion)," Baramidze said.
"We are looking forward (to) the EU council (on Monday)... to define a unified position supporting politically and economically Georgia and, hopefully, sending a strong message to Russia," he said.
"Appeasement policy would be more dangerous, it is not Europe's choice, nor ours (nor) of the West. Russians have chosen this way of behavior," Baramidze added.© Wire reports