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Georgia accuses Russia of weapon deployment

Relations between the nations have been tense
May 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Georgia on Sunday accused Russia of deploying heavy weaponry alongside strengthened peacekeeping forces in a separatist region of the country. Georgia also said it briefly detained five Russian peacekeepers along the administrative border with the Abkhazia region after an accident involving an armored personnel carrier.

Relations between the two nations have been dangerously strained in recent months by Georgia's drive for NATO membership and Russia's support for separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia - another Georgian region that has de-facto independence.

The tensions have stoked fears of military conflict in Georgia, whose location on a key oil export route makes it a focus of contention between Moscow and the West.

Russia recently began bolstering its peacekeeping forces in Abkhazia, after several unmanned Georgian spy planes were shot down over Abkhazia.

Georgia's Interior Ministry released video footage apparently taken by another spy plane that the ministry said shows Russia is deploying heavy weaponry in Abkhazia. That would violate the peacekeepers' mandate.

The footage, taken from directly overhead, shows vehicles parked in rows, but gives no other indication about their type or location.

Interior Ministry official Shota Utiashvili, meanwhile, said the five peacekeepers were detained early Sunday after their armored personnel carrier collided with a Georgian woman's car in the town of Zugdidi. The woman was lightly injured.

The peacekeepers were later released, he said.

Lt. Col. Alexander Diordiev, a Russian peacekeeping official, confirmed the soldiers' detention but denied there had been any collision.

"In our view, this is the latest attempt by the Georgians to discredit Russian peacekeepers. The police provoked our peacekeepers with their actions," he said.

Russia's top security agency on Friday claimed to have uncovered a spy recruited by Georgia to aid insurgents in Russia's south - an allegation that Georgia denied.

 

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