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Breakaway region accuses Georgia of provocations

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, January 12
The separatist authorities of South Ossetia have announced that Georgian troops moved closer to the administrative border of the conflict region on January 10.

“On the morning of January 9 16 cargo vehicles and 4 armed transports were seen in Mereti village near the Prisi heights in the border zone. Each vehicle is ably to carry at minimum 20 people so we can state that Georgia has moved at least 300 soldiers to Mereti,” said Ibragim Gasseev, de facto Deputy Defence Minister of the separatist authority. He also noted the “appearance of Georgian equipment and troops near the Atotsi, Knolevi and Dvani villages” in the same zone.

Gasseev spoke queried the “surprising position” of the EU Monitoring Mission [EUMM], which he said “doesn’t question the reason for this troop relocation.” Earlier, the so called South Ossetian Committee for Information had stated that the security departments of the breakaway region “possess information on the preparation of provocations by the Georgian side directed against the South Ossetian forces and the Russian military contingent.” According to the separatist authorities, this was the reason Georgian reservists were being trained in the Georgian town of Gori.

The information on deployment of troops was strongly denied by the Georgian side. According to the Chief of the Shida Kartli [the Georgian region bordering breakaway South Ossetia] police, “No military force entered this area. EUMM observers took an interest in this issue and checked and found nothing like this happening there.”

Meanwhile Russian military officials have announced the details of their future deployment of military bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. According to Deputy Chief of Russian Army Headquarters Anatoly Nogovitsyn these bases will be established in late 2009, and Russia will then undertake work to develop the bases. “The development of our bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia will not end in 2009. We have to prepare carefully. 2009 will be just the first stage in the development of the bases,” stated Nogovitsyn. He noted that military facilities will be established in the town of Guduata in Abkhazia and the towns of Tskhinvali and Java in South Ossetia. The Russian General did not exclude the possibility of conducting strategic military training for the Russian Army on the territory of Georgia’s separatist regions. He noted that the deployment of additional troops meant more than the previously announced 7,400 soldiers may be permanently stationed in those regions. “And that’s another step [in the development],” stated the General.

After the August 2008 war with Georgia Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as ‘independent republics’ and announced plans to establish a military contingent of 3,700 soldiers in each. According to the Russian authorities their bases would “serve to protect the population of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as the peace of the region.” Tbilisi regards this decision as intervention in, and occupation of, its territory.