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An escalation in the face of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan2009-01-19 22:30
On 16th January Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared at a press conference in Moscow that Georgia has been building up its military presence along the border with South Ossetia. By doing this, in Lavrov's opinion, the Georgians are violating the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan.
"In the border zones between Georgia and South Ossetia," Lavrov was quoted as saying by RIA-Novosti, "observers from Russia and the EU have been noting a build-up in the Georgian armed forces and special units, and acts of provocation are occurring. We find this alarming. The best way to avoid an escalation in tension must be if Georgia implements the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan."
On 9th January, South Ossetia's deputy defence minister Ibragim Gaseev told RIA-Novosti that Georgia was gathering additional units and military technology towards the border with South Ossetia.
He claimed that the appearance of 16 cargo vehicles had been noted outside the village of Mereti, in the region of the Prisi Heights in the border zone. "If we consider that there could be at least 20 people in each vehicle," said Gaseev, "then Georgia has transferred about 300 soldiers towards Mereti." Moreover, he mentioned the appearance of Georgian technology and troops around the villages of Atotsi, Knolevi and Dvani.
Georgia has denied these statements, stressing that they have information suggesting that the EU observers have not recorded anything of the kind by the border.
Even before this, on 24th December, some Cobra armoured vehicles were observed by the South Ossetian border. Then the EU mission released an appeal which it sent to the Georgian authorities instilling upon them the need to withdraw these vehicles. "The movement of this military technology does not directly contravene the agreement," explained international experts, "but it cannot help to improve security."
This fact was not denied in Tbilisi. The head of the analytical department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Shota Utiashvili gave the following explanation in an interview with RIA-Novosti: "The Cobra vehicles are necessary there for patrolling and for controlling the situation. In total 10 such machines are in operation in the conflict zone."
Of even less potential benefit to improving security in the region was the transfer on 29th December of heavily armoured vehicles towards the South Ossetian border. "According to operational information which is just reaching us," South Ossetia's state committee on information and the press commented, "the Georgians have driven 28 tanks into Gori, where the tank battalion is based."
Admittedly, the Georgians denied this fact.