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Abkhaz Rebels Say EU Ignores 'Georgian Provocation'

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region accused European Union monitors on October 26 of ignoring "armed provocations" by Georgia along its boundaries and warned Tbilisi its retaliation would be heavy-handed.

The accusation was made one day after a Georgian district governor and a villager were killed by what Georgian police said were mortars fired from the Abkhaz side in the boundary zone.

On October 26, Abkhazia accused Georgia of firing at a border checkpoint, saying one of its border guards had been wounded.

The new shoot-out appears to have increased tension in the Abkhaz de facto border zone since Russian forces pulled back to within the rebel region early this month, following a five-day war with Georgia in August.

"The heightened activity of Georgian subversive groups in Abkhazia, these frequent shooting and killings are a consequence of the absense of Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone and the inaction of EU monitors," Russia's RIA news agency quoted an unnamed senior Abkhaz security official as saying.

Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh held an emergency meeting of the separatist security council.

"Georgia is launching a large-scale terrorist action on the territory of the Republic of Abkhazia," Russia's Vesti-24 state channel showed a grim Bagapsh as telling the meeting.

"I repeat: shooting at any (Abkhaz) post from Georgian territory will be punished by retaliatory fire from all weapons we have at our disposal. If there is a need to bring in armour -- let's say, more or less combat-ready tanks -- do it."

Russian Support

Tbilisi said the situation in western Georgia was calm. "But Abkhaz separatists, supported by Russian troops, are trying to whip up tension," said Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili.

"Such statements are intended to destabilise the situation and again introduce extra [Russian] troops in the parts of Georgia, from where they had been pulled back. There has not been a single case of shooting from our side."

Russian troops and tanks pushed into Georgia in early August to halt a Georgian military offensive to retake pro-Moscow South Ossetia, which like Abkhazia threw off Georgian rule in the early 1990s.

The Russian counter-strike drove Georgian forces out of South Ossetia, and Moscow's troops pushed further into Georgian territory from both rebel regions.

The West called the response disproportionate, and Russian forces have since pulled back from buffer zones around South Ossetia and Abkhazia under a French-brokered ceasefire deal. The Kremlin has recognised the two regions as independent states.

A 225-strong European Union mission is monitoring the ceasefire in both de facto border zones.

South Ossetia accused Tbilisi last week of breaching the ceasefire deal by firing at its villages from the EU-monitored area, and said its forces would not hesitate to retaliate.