The Russian Ambassador to Georgia, Vladimir Chkhikvishvili, described as "a gross provocation" the detention of a Russian peacekeeping convoy by Georgian security forces in the zone of the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict. South Ossetia is a self-proclaimed republic on the Georgian territory.
The first step to cool the tensions down should be the return of the two trucks seized from the peacekeepers, the ambassador said to a news conference in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi Wednesday.
The sides signed an agreement on the deployment of helicopters in the conflict zone back in 1992, and Russian helicopters have been deployed here since 1996, Chkhikvishvili said.
Alexander Dzasokhov, President of the Russian republic of North Ossetia, shares the ambassador's view. He also believes that the apprehension of the peacekeeping convoy in South Ossetia was a provocation on the part of Georgian security forces.
Speaking Wednesday at a session of the republican anti-terror commission, Dzasokhov pointed out that "not only do such actions contradict the agreements reached earlier at a meeting of the co-chairs of the four-party joint control commission, but they also dramatically exacerbate the situation in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone."
The unpredictable conduct of Georgian law-enforcers makes it harder for peacekeepers to restore stability to the conflict zone, the North Ossetian President pointed out.
Speaking about where North Ossetia stood on the issue, Dzasokhov said that the important thing for it now was to maintain contact with South Ossetia's authorities, trying to rectify the situation.
Georgi Khaindrava, Georgian State Minister for Conflict Settlement, has denied responsibility for the 1996 agreement on Georgian-Ossetian Settlement. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, the minister said the agreement on the establishment of an air force commandant's office under the Joint Peacekeeping Force Headquarters in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict had been signed in 1996 and that he personally had nothing to do with it.
Khaindrava said he could not bear responsibility for agreements signed by his predecessors. "Where these arrangements are good or bad is another matter, but they were signed eight years ago and by someone else, not me," he said.
Major General Svyatoslav Nabzdorov, Commander of the Joint Peacekeeping Force in the conflict zone, told reporters earlier that the military hardware and armaments at hand were intended for peacekeeping forces and their helicopters.
Officials in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali have dismissed as false Georgian media reports that Major General Nabzdorov made a suicide attempt in his office Wednesday. "This is sheer lies," Konstantin Kochiev, Advisor to the President of South Ossetia, said to RIA in a telephone interview.
The Georgian television network Rustavi II reported earlier that Nabzdorov attempted to commit suicide in his office in Tskhinvali.
Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov, head of the press service of the Russian Defense Ministry, told RIA that he would not even comment on so absurd a report, based on information from unknown and incompetent sources.
The Georgia-Ossetia conflict, at its peak in 1989 to 1992, was sparked by Georgia's decision to take the autonomy status away from South Ossetia and toughen its grip over the republic. Peacekeeping forces have been deployed there since 1992. The situation is under the control of the four-party Joint Control Commission, comprised of officials representing Russia, Georgia, North and South Ossetia.
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