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New shootings reported in South Ossetia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Tuesday, December 2
Both the Georgian and separatist South Ossetian authorities have confirmed that victimless shootings took place in the conflict zone on December1.

The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs states that the Georgian villages of Kveshi, Mereti and Koshka were fired upon from South Ossetian territory. “The fire from the South Ossetian side lasted quite a long time. Automatic guns and small calibre shells were used, however the fire was not intended to be destructive and there were no victims,” said the head of the regional police department Vladimir Chugeli. The Internal Ministry noted that retaliatory fire was not opened.

The residents of those villages told journalists that the December 1 shootings and shelling were the most intense since the August war. The European Monitoring Mission (EUMM) is reported to have refrained from entering the villages due to the insecure situation.

Another incident occurred in the Sachkhere district of the same region later on Monday. Georgian police reports that two South Ossetian militiamen assaulted a Georgian and stole his vehicle. The police tried to stop them, but they managed to return to the territory not controlled by the central Government. They abandoned the stolen vehicle. No injured were reported at this incident either.

The authorities of breakaway South Ossetia stated at the same time that their villages had been fired on by the Georgian side. De facto Deputy Defence Minister Ibragim Gasseev stated that fire was opened by the Georgians late at night from the direction of Kveshi. “Shots were fired from large calibre weapons in the direction of the Ossetian villages bordering it [Kveshi]. Military units were not involved in the provocation, but were put on a state of high alert.” The separatists also don’t report any casualties. The Georgian Interior Ministry denied any shootings toward Ossetian villages had taken place on the night of December 1.

The head of the EUMM, Hansjorg Haber, said in a statement on December 1 that the situation along the administrative border “is unpredictable, incidents are still occurring.” Haber said that because challenges remained along the border, “the mission has decided to make changes to our Field Office network to better match the challenges.” In particular, this involves moving the mission’s field office from Poti in western Georgia to Khashuri in the Shida Kartli region. The move is designed to increase the EUMM monitoring capability at the western section of the South Ossetian administrative border.

The tensions of December 1 had been preceded by statements from the South Ossetians that Tskhinvali had been shelled by Georgians on November 30. This information was denied by Tbilisi.