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Separatists claim provocations

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, December 1
The separatist authorities of Georgian breakaway region South Ossetia have stated that Tskhinvali came under fire from automatic weapons on November 29. These accusations are strongly denied by Tbilisi.

The official Press Service of the separatist region has announced that the southwestern part of Tskhinvali and the Ossetian village of Khetagurovo were “under fire from Georgian troops” located in the Georgian village of Nikozi. “There are no dead or wounded. The military forces [of South Ossetia] were not involved in this provocation. However the troops are on high alert now,” said de facto Deputy Defence Minister Ibragim Gassiev.

The separatists accuse representatives of the Tbilisi-loyal South Ossetian Temporary Administration of conducting these “provocations,” saying that Dmitry Sanakoev, head of the Administration, and his supporters have been seen in the villages located near the administrative border of the conflict territory. “At their appearance the provocations in the bordering region increased in number. Of course they act with the support of the official Georgian authorities,” the separatist leaders say.

Tbilisi immediately reacted to these statements, calling them “absurd.” “The shots were fired on territory controlled by the separatists. This kind of thing happens almost every day near Tskhinvali. The incident didn’t happen in the Georgian villages,” stated Shota Utiashvili, Georgian Interior Ministry spokesperson. The European Monitoring Mission (EUMM) also doesn’t confirm the claims of the separatists. Residents of Nikozi, as quoted by Georgian media, suppose that the South Ossetian militia plans to conduct some kind of provocation against the village and that these statement may precede such actions. They also deny there were any shootings on November 29.

In the other Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia Georgian media has reported that a man was killed in a “quarrel” between Russian soldiers located there. According to a representative of the Tbilisi-loyal Abkhazian Government, Russian soldiers entered the Georgian village of Chegali were they met another group of drunken soldiers who began to shoot at them after an exchange of verbal abuse.

Paata Shamugia, an Abkhazian de jure Government official, supposes that the Russian fighters were arguing over the division of the spoils after robbing local residents. The Abkhazian separatist authorities confirm the death of one soldier, but deny he was killed in a quarrel. The official version is that a 24-year old officer died as a result of “uncareful usage” of a weapon by one of his soldiers.

Tensions in the breakaway regions are rising against the background of scandals over the Georgian Government’s conduct during the August war. After Erosi Kitsmarishvili, former Georgian Ambassador to Russia, accused the central Government of starting the August war Badri Bitsadze, former head of the Border Police and husband of former Parliament Chair Nino Burjanadze, has said that the Georgian leadership did decide to start the war in South Ossetia “because Saakashvili was sure he would have won it.” “There was no green light from any foreign country. Everything happened very simply. One day these people [the Georgian leadership] decided that it should happen,” Bitsadze said in an interview published by Georgian daily Rezonansi on November 29.

“I, together with 250 border guards, was on the way leading to Tskhinvali. Two buses full of flags were moving towards Tskhinvali… They were sure that a rally would have been held in Tskhinvali next day and we would have celebrated the restoration of Georgian jurisdiction in the Tskhinvali region,” Bitsadze said. “Saakashvili was sure he would have won it. He was listening only to those who agreed with him, no one else,” he added.