A Russian peacekeeper manns a checkpoint in South Ossetia (file photo) (AFP)
May 31, 2006 -- Georgia today said the arrival of a new contingent of 500 Russian peacekeepers arrived in the separatist republic of South Ossetia is illegal.
It argues that the troops should first have obtained visas.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov called the movement of troops a standard rotation. He also defended the decision to send the troops directly into the separatist region, via a tunnel linking South Ossetia with North Ossetia, a Russian republic. He said this was same procedure as Russia has used in recent years.
Ivanov said Russia has no plans to change anything in the scheduled rotations of its troops, adding that Georgia routinely fails to comply with the terms of an agreement governing its deployment of troops.
A 1,500-peacekeeping force comprising Russians, Georgians and Ossetians has patrolled South Ossetia since it broke away from the central government in the 1990s. Georgia accuses the Russian peacekeepers of siding with the separatists, and the Georgian parliament earlier this year called for their withdrawal.
(ITAR-TASS, civil.ge, AP)