MOSCOW Russia warned the West on Monday against supporting Georgia's leadership, suggesting that the United States carried weapons as well as aid to the ex-Soviet republic and calling for an arms embargo until the Georgian government falls.
The remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his spokesman are likely to anger the United States and Europe and enrage Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who has said Russia's goal all along has been to remove him from power.
"If instead of choosing their national interests and the interests of the Georgian people, the United States and its allies choose the Saakashvili regime, this will be a mistake of truly historic proportions," he said.
"For a start it would be right to impose an embargo on weapons to this regime, until different authorities turn Georgia into a normal state," he said in an address at Russia's top foreign policy graduate school.
Hours later, the spokesman for Lavrov's ministry suggested U.S. ships that carried humanitarian aid to Georgia's Black Sea coast following last month's war may also have delivered weapons.
Without naming a specific country, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said there were "suppositions" that the cargo of military ships bringing aid to Georgia may also have included "military components that will be used for the rearmament" of Georgia's military. He provided no evidence, but said such suspicions were a reason for Russia's call for an arms embargo.
Lavrov reserved particular criticism for the United States, which has trained Georgian troops, saying such aid had failed to give Washington sufficient leverage to restrain the Georgian government. Instead, he said, "It encouraged the irresponsible and unpredictable regime in its gambles."
Neither the State Department nor the Pentagon had immediate comment.
Human Rights Watch said Monday that Georgia as well as Russia dropped cluster bombs during the conflict. The rights group said Georgia's government has admitted it, while Russia continues with denials.
"These indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law," said Bonnie Docherty, arms division researcher at the New York-based body, who said the casualty toll in only four Georgia villages from cluster bombs and their leftover duds was 14 dead and dozens wounded.
The revelation could provide fuel for Russia, which has traded allegations with Georgia over controversial weapon usage, human rights violations and disinformation.
European Union leaders gathered for a summit Monday to discuss the Georgia crisis and further relations with Russia.
Russia's ties to the West have been driven to their lowest point since the Soviet collapse of 1991 by the war last month in Georgia, where Saakashvili angered Moscow by courting the West and seeking NATO membership.
Russia repelled a Georgian offensive against the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia and sent troops, tanks and bombers deep into undisputed Georgian territory, where some still maintain positions. Moscow last week recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent countries.
The United States and Europe have accused Russia of using disproportionate force and of violating the terms of a cease-fire that called for the sides to withdraw their forces to pre-conflict positions. They have also denounced Russia's recognition of the separatist regions, saying Georgia's borders must remain intact.
Russia says it was provoked. Russian peacekeeping forces were stationed in South Ossetia before the war and Moscow had given most of South Ossetia's residents Russian passports in recent years, enabling the Kremlin to argue that it was defending its citizens when it responded to Georgia's Aug. 7 offensive in the separatist province.
Russian soldiers, he said, followed "our deeply Christian tradition of dying for our friends."
Nesterenko insisted said Moscow was in full compliance with its obligations.
Nesterenko also said that Russia would welcome an EU-dominated international police presence and more military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in what is now a Russian-controlled zone around Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia.
But he indicated that Russia would want to take part in the police force, and that it would be a long time before Russia would consider reducing its military presence in and around South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
In any case, Russian officials have said the main task of an international presence would be to ensure that Georgia does not attack again, suggesting Russia and the West would have widely different views of their mandates.
European Union leaders seeking to punish Russia have few options and were likely to choose diplomatic pressure to isolate Moscow at their summit Monday.
Lavrov's implication that continued support for Saakashvili would further undermine relations with Russia was the latest in a bitter back-and-forth between Moscow and the West; each says it is up to the other to avoid plunging the world into a new Cold War.
"It's up to Russia today to make a fundamental choice" and to engage neighbors and partners in settling disputes peacefully, French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote in a pre-summit letter to EU leaders. "Russia's commitment to a relationship of understanding and cooperation with the rest of Europe is in doubt."
Nesterenko said that while Russia will review aspects of its foreign policy it will not change course an apparent attempt to assure Europe that Russia will continue to seek cooperation.
"The recent events demand a regrouping of our approaches and positions," he said. "But we are not talking about any change of course in international affairs."