Georgia charges Russian invasion
TBILISI: Georgia accused Russia on Monday of trying to take more territory outside the breakaway province of South Ossetia as tensions rose before the first anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war last summer.
Georgia said Russian troops entered the village of Kveshi near South Ossetia on Sunday and erected posts in an attempt to mark a new border. Georgia said the posts, several hundred meters (yards) outside the boundary with South Ossetia, were removed Monday.
Russia and South Ossetia, which together patrol the region's de facto border with Georgia, countered that no forces had entered Kveshi and the posts - a temporary roadblock - had been erected within South Ossetian territory.
The situation near South Ossetia has become increasingly tense as the first anniversary of the war approaches on Aug. 7, with Georgia and Russia blaming each other for provocations and intentions to resume fighting.
"It's very alarming that as the first anniversary of the Russian aggression against Georgia comes close, Russia and its puppets are deliberately inciting tensions and behave defiantly," the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
But South Ossetia's spokeswoman Irina Gagloyeva told The Associated Press that the border move was legitimate and rejected any land-grabbing ambitions.
"Let the Georgians relax about their territory. We don't need a single centimeter of their soil," Gagloyeva said.
Russia's top security agency, which patrols the boundary along with local troops, also denied any wrongdoing, according to a statement run by the ITAR-Tass news agency.
"Russian border guards did not enter the village of Kveshi," the Federal Security Service statement said, adding Tbilisi had been informed about the move.
Steve Bird, a spokesman for the European Union's observer mission in Georgia, said Russian border guards had assured them they had no plans to move a checkpoint to the area that had been briefly marked by the posts.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin discussed the situation around South Ossetia in a phone call Sunday with William Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
"It was emphasized that it's necessary to prevent military provocations which could further destabilize the already explosive situation on the border," the ministry said in a statement.
The episode was the latest in a series of claims and counterclaims between the two uneasy neighbors.
South Ossetia's separatist authorities have accused Georgia of firing gunshots and mortar rounds near the provincial capital of Tskhinvali on two separate occasions last week. Georgian authorities dismissed the allegations and accused separatists of firing at Georgians. No one was hurt.