General Warns Georgia

A general on Thursday warned that Russian peacekeepers in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia province will not maintain restraint if they continue to face "provocations."

Lieutenant General Alexander Burutin's statement came in response to the brief detention of four Russian peacekeepers near Abkhazia, which Moscow angrily protested.

Burutin described Tuesday's detention as a "gang-style assault" and warned that the Russian peacekeepers have the right to use weapons in self-defense.

"We can't guarantee that the Russian peacekeepers will show the same restraint if the provocations continue. Their patience has limits," Burutin said. "The consequences could be grave, involving bloodshed. The Georgian side will bear all responsibility for that."

In Tbilisi, Georgia's Foreign Ministry dismissed the comments. "We permanently hear threats of bloodshed and military confrontation. We aren't afraid," Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze told Georgian television station.

After the angry rhetoric, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns, meeting in Moscow, called for "a de-escalation of tensions in conflict regions," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Georgian authorities detained the four soldiers on charges of carrying unauthorized weapons to a buffer zone near Abkhazia. The soldiers were released the next day, but Georgian authorities kept the anti-tank missiles they seized from the Russians.

In footage broadcast by Georgian and Russian TV, burly plainclothes men descended on a Russian military truck, dragging young soldiers out, taking their weapons and putting one of the Russians face down on the ground. The Russians did not seem to offer any resistance.

In Washington, Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that Moscow was putting dangerous pressure on Georgia that threatened to ignite a wider conflict in the Caucasus.