Georgia Says Russia Is Trying to Seize More Land

August 3, 2009 - 7:53 AM
Georgia's Foreign Ministry said Russian troops entered the village of Kveshi near South Ossetia on Sunday and erected posts marking a new border.
Tbilisi, Georgia (AP) - Georgia accused Russia on Monday of trying to take more territory outside the breakaway province of South Ossetia as tensions rose before the first anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war last summer.
 
Georgia's Foreign Ministry said Russian troops entered the village of Kveshi near South Ossetia on Sunday and erected posts marking a new border.
 
It said the Russian action followed South Ossetian separatists' statements about planning to seize control over swaths of land near the province.
 
"It's very alarming that as the first anniversary of the Russian aggression against Georgia comes close, Russia and its puppets are deliberately inciting tensions and behave defiantly," the ministry said in a statement.
 
Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told The Associated Press the Russian border guards erected border posts several hundred meters (yards) away from the administrative border of South Ossetia.
 
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov would not immediately comment on the situation.
 
Steve Bird, a spokesman for the European Union's observer mission in Georgia, said the monitors were following the situation closely. He said the Russian border guards told the EU mission they had no plan to move their checkpoint to the area marked by posts.
 
The situation near South Ossetia has become increasingly tense as the first anniversary of the war approached, with Georgia and Russia blaming each other for provocations and intentions to resume fighting.
 
South Ossetia's separatist authorities have accused Georgia of firing gunshots and mortar rounds near the provincial capital of Tskhinvali on two separate occasions last week. Georgian authorities dismissed the allegations and accused separatists of firing at Georgians. No one was hurt.
 
The Russian Defense Ministry warned Georgia on Saturday that it "reserves the right to use all available forces and means to protect the citizens of South Ossetia and Russian servicemen" in case of further Georgian "provocations."
 
Georgian officials said that statement reflected Moscow's hostile intentions.
 
Temuri Yakobashvili, a Georgian Cabinet minister, reaffirmed Monday that Georgia has no intention to use force. "There is no military solution to the conflict," he told the AP.
 
The August war began when Georgia launched an offensive to regain control over Moscow-backed South Ossetia. Russia quickly sent in thousands of troops and tanks that routed the Georgian military and drove deep into Georgia. A truce negotiated by the European Union ended five days of fierce fighting.
 
Georgian authorities claimed they had to launch an artillery barrage on Tskhinvali because Russia had sent waves of troops into South Ossetia hours earlier. Moscow denied the claim and said it acted to protect its peacekeepers and civilians in the region.
 
After the war, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another separatist region in Georgia, as independent nations and permanently deployed thousands of troops there.
 
The EU monitors are the only remaining international ones in Georgia, but they are blocked from traveling inside South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia has blocked the extension of monitoring missions by the U.N. and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.