x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Russia deploys extra troops: Georgia

The Georgian interior minister says Russia has deployed an extra 2,000 troops to the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Georgia today said Russia was deploying an additional 2,000 troops in the breakaway region of South Ossetia and said it was "deeply concerned" by the move. "During the last two weeks, 2,000 additional Russian troops have been deployed in South Ossetia," the interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said. "The total number of Russian troops in South Ossetia is now up to 7,000." Russia has previously said it would maintain a total of about 7,600 troops in South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia.

Mr Utiashvili also said 40 armoured vehicles had been deployed in the disputed Akhalgori region of South Ossetia, which Tbilisi says Russian forces must withdraw from under a European Union-brokered ceasefire agreement. "We are deeply concerned over such provocative actions committed by the Russian Federation," he said. Russia sent troops into Georgia on Aug 8 to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake the Moscow-backed rebel region of South Ossetia.

Russian forces occupied swathes of the country, but later pulled back to within South Ossetia and Abkhazia under the ceasefire. Tbilisi insists they must still withdraw from a number of disputed areas to comply with the ceasefire, including Akhalgori, a predominantly ethnic Georgian district that was under Tbilisi's control before the war. Moscow has recognised both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, drawing condemnation from Tbilisi and Western powers.

An EU mission is monitoring the ceasefire, patrolling around South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but Russia has said monitors will not be allowed inside the rebel regions. *AFP