Tensions High at Scene of Shooting

presidential press serviceSecurity officers protecting Polish President Lech Kaczynski after Sunday's shooting incident near South Ossetia.
AKHMAJI, Georgia -- Tensions between Georgian police and Russian-backed troops were running high Monday, a day after gunfire erupted close to the Georgian presidential motorcade near the separatist South Ossetia region.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Polish President Lech Kaczynski blamed Russian troops for the shooting that broke out Sunday evening when the two leaders were traveling near the disputed territory.

Russian and South Ossetian officials denied that their forces opened fire.

Visibly agitated Ossetian troops leveled a machine gun at a reporter Monday as he approached the checkpoint where the shooting occurred.

Georgian police had brought rocket-propelled grenade launchers to their positions in the area, though it was unclear when.

In Warsaw on Monday, Polish parliamentary Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski said the gunfire that erupted near the convoy carrying the Georgian and Polish presidents was not very serious but could exacerbate Warsaw's troubled ties with Moscow.

Komorowski said on state radio Monday that the incident appeared to be "not very serious at all" but still unfortunate because it puts the Polish president in an awkward situation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was no gunfire from Russian or South Ossetian positions and suggested that Georgia was behind the incident, news agencies reported.

"This is a provocation, clearly," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying late Sunday in Peru, where he was accompanying President Dmitry Medvedev. "It's not the first time something like this has happened: They organize everything themselves and then blame the Russian or Ossetian side."

Kaczynski said Sunday that the shots were fired from only about 30 meters from the motorcade. He said it was not clear if the gunfire was aimed at the motorcade or if shots were fired into the air.

"I know from their shouting that they were Russians; I also know from the president of Georgia that there are Russian outposts on that territory," Kaczynski said.

Boris Atoyev, head of the South Ossetian security agency, said guards at the border between Georgian-controlled and South Ossetian-controlled territory refused to let the motorcade through.

The incident occurred near the tense Akhalgori area. Unlike most of South Ossetia, Akhalgori was controlled by Georgia before the war, and Georgia says the presence of Russian and South Ossetian forces there violates the terms of a French-brokered cease-fire that called for a return to preconflict positions.

The war broke out when Saakashvili launched an offensive Aug. 7 to gain control of South Ossetia. Russia sent in troops that routed the Georgian military. Russia recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway province, Abkhazia, as independent nations after the war and deployed thousands of troops to both regions.