Georgia-Ossetia tensions mount

Georgia’s military sources said some 400 interior ministry troops had been sent to Georgia’s trading posts with South Ossetia, but said that their main task was to stamp out illegal trade through the region.

The leader of the separatist region vowed that his militia would fight back if Georgian troops crossed the contentious border.

“We are in full control of the situation,” Eduard Kokoity told Russia’s NTV television.

“I, as the commander-in-chief, have issued an order to revert to the use of force in case the border of South Ossetia is crossed,” Kokoity said.

Russian peacekeepers patrol inside South Ossetia where most people hold Russian passports.

Georgia reportedly agreed to withdraw some of the troops after settling an agreement with South Ossetia’s Russian authorities.

But Moscow issued a firm condemnation of the troop relocation and Russia’s foreign ministry said Georgia was using “excuses” to pull its troops up to South Ossetia’s borders and that “the situation was only being destabilized” in the region.

After the statement, the Kremlin reported that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili called his counterpart Vladimir Putin to explain Georgia’s position, but gave no other details.

Saakashvili also appeared in a nationally-televised address, saying “we have no plans to attack, or to have a war with, Ossetia.”

He said his talks with Putin were “warm” and that he expected the situation to be ironed out completely by Tuesday.

Saakashvili has vowed to pull together his fractured republic since peacefully overthrowing the leadership of Eduard Shevardnadze last year, and then winning the presidency in a nearly unanimous vote in January.

He has offered South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another pro-Moscow region that controls a key port on the Black Sea, special status.

Abkhazia has already rejected the offer, and a parliamentary election in South Ossetia this month handed victory to the party of the region’s pro-Russian president.

South Ossetia fought a separatist war with Georgia in the early 1990s, seeking union with their ethnic brethren over the border in the Russian region of North Ossetia.

Georgian troops were defeated and withdrew leaving South Ossetia to run its own affairs, though it is still internationally recognised as a part of Georgia.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation