Georgia Says Russia Making New Border
- By Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili
- Aug. 04 2009 00:00
Georgia said Russian troops entered the village of Kveshi near South Ossetia on Sunday and erected posts in an attempt to mark a new border. Georgia said the posts, several hundred meters outside the boundary with South Ossetia, were removed Monday.
Russia and South Ossetia, which together patrol the region’s de facto border with Georgia, countered that no forces had entered Kveshi and the posts — a temporary roadblock — had been erected within South Ossetian territory.
The situation near South Ossetia has become increasingly tense as the first anniversary of the war approaches on Aug. 7, with Georgia and Russia blaming each other for provocations and intentions to resume fighting.
“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 behaving defiantly,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
But South Ossetia’s spokeswoman, Irina Gagloyeva, said the border move was legitimate and rejected any land-grabbing ambitions.
“Let the Georgians relax about their territory. We don’t need a single centimeter of their soil,” Gagloyeva said.
The Federal Security Service, which patrols the boundary along with local troops, also denied any wrongdoing, according to a statement run by Itar-Tass.
“Russian border guards did not enter the village of Kveshi,” the FSB statement said, adding that Tbilisi had been informed about the move.
Steve Bird, a spokesman for the European Union’s observer mission in Georgia, said Russian border guards had assured them that they had no plans to move a checkpoint to the area that had been briefly marked by the posts.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin discussed the situation in a phone call Sunday with William Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, the ministry said.
“It was emphasized that it’s necessary to prevent military provocations that could further destabilize the already explosive situation on the border,” the ministry said in a statement.
The episode was the latest in a series of claims and counterclaims between the two uneasy neighbors.
South Ossetia’s separatist authorities 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.
Meanwhile, Eduard Kokoity, South Ossetia’s leader, told RIA-Novosti that the breakaway region should “raise the issue” of reclaiming Georgian-controlled land that he insisted was historically Ossetian.
And South Ossetia’s Gagloyeva said Monday that Russian troops would conduct military drills this week in the region.
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 that Georgia has no intention to use force. “There is no military solution to the conflict,” he said Monday.
The war began when Georgia launched an offensive to regain control over 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 EU ended five days of fierce fighting.