Georgia says Russia deploying troops in S.Ossetia

A052853312.jpgTBILISI (Reuters) – Georgia said on Thursday that Russia had deployed 2,000 extra troops in South Ossetia in the past week and was preparing to stir up more trouble in the breakaway territory.

Moscow dismissed the charges.

“In the past week, Russia increased the number of troops by 2,000 to 7,000 staff,” Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told a news conference.

“We fear Russia is preparing provocations in South Ossetia,” he said.

Asked for his reaction, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said all of Moscow’s troop deployments to the region were openly declared.

“It’s very difficult to comment on official declarations of Georgian representatives because there is very little truth in them,” Lavrov said in Moscow.

Utiashvili said dozens of Russian armored vehicles had been positioned in the disputed Akhalgori region, the southeastern corner of South Ossetia which Georgia insists should be returned to Tbilisi’s control under a French-brokered ceasefire deal.

Russia sent troops and tanks into Georgia in August to repel an offensive by the Georgian military to retake pro-Russian South Ossetia, which threw off Tbilisi’s rule in 1991-92.

Russia’s forces drove the Georgian army out of South Ossetia and then pushed further into Georgia.

The West condemned Russia for a “disproportionate response” and Russian troops have since pulled back from buffer zones around South Ossetia and a second breakaway region, Abkhazia.

The Kremlin has recognized both rebel regions as independent states and said it will station 7,600 troops there to provide security — a figure Lavrov repeated on Thursday.

A 225-strong European Union mission is monitoring the ceasefire, patrolling the former buffer zone around South Ossetia up to its de facto border.

Russia says the mission will not be allowed to operate inside South Ossetia.

Lavrov also called for better cooperation from the European monitors, whom he held responsible for the security of the two regions, to prevent what he said were continued violations of ceasefire agreements by the Georgian side.

“Russia is concerned they are taking a light-hearted view of the situation of what is happening there,” Lavrov said of the EU observers.

“This is a dangerous game with fire,” he added.

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