Russia Frees 12 Georgians at Abkhaz Border

APRussian soldiers photographing one of 12 Georgian soldiers being released Thursday to Georgian officials in Rukhi.
RUKHI, Georgia -- Russian forces turned over 12 Georgian soldiers on the border of one of the separatist provinces under Russian control Thursday after the short war that outraged the West and brought Moscow's military deep into Georgia.

The release along the Inguri River separating Abkhazia from Georgia proper was a small conciliatory gesture amid the high tensions and belligerent posturing of the weeks following the end of the fighting.

The soldiers, who were detained Aug. 18 in the seaport of Poti, appeared unharmed and some were smiling.

Russian troops remain at checkpoints well into Georgia, saying that a cease-fire agreement allows them to occupy "security zones" outside Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The war started Aug. 7, when Georgian forces launched a massive barrage on South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali, only to be quickly driven out by Russian troops.

Meanwhile, the interior minister of South Ossetia said his forces had shot down an unmanned Georgian spy plane.

Mikhail Mindzayev said the drone was shot down over South Ossetia on Thursday by local forces. Mindzayev said it had crossed into South Ossetia from the south, meaning that it was of Georgian origin.

A Georgian official denied that the country had sent any drone over South Ossetia. Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said Mindzayev was "seeing things."