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Russia Accuses Georgia Of Trying To Wreck Cease-Fire


MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia has accused Georgia of trying to sabotage a French-brokered cease-fire by mounting a series of violent attacks on Russian targets across the region, but Tbilisi said the allegation was baseless.

In the latest violence to underline the fragility of the cease-fire -- which is being overseen by unarmed European Union monitors -- the separatist Abkhazia region said one of its border guards was killed in a gunfight with Georgian police.

Russia said though that despite the attacks it would honor a commitment to pull its troops out of undisputed Georgian territory by October 10, and Reuters reporters on October 6 saw signs of Russian soldiers preparing to withdraw.

Russia sent in troops and tanks in August in a massive response to an attempt by Georgia to retake South Ossetia, another Moscow-backed separatist region.

The Kremlin said it acted to protect local people from Georgian aggression. Western states called Russia's reaction disproporionate, though no concrete sanctions were imposed on Russia, a major supplier of energy to Western customers.

'Trying To Provoke'

In the most deadly attack since large-scale hostilities ceased, seven Russian servicemen were killed on October 3 when a vehicle packed with explosives blew up outside their base in South Ossetia.

"The impression is forming that certain forces in Tbilisi, who do not want a normal and smooth handover ... to EU monitors, are consciously seeking to worsen the situation in the region and through a series of terrorist acts are trying to provoke new military action," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"Nevertheless, we are firmly intent on carrying out the agreement ... on the pullout of peacekeeping units from Georgian territory," the ministry said in a statement.

Kakha Lomaia, secretary of Georgia's National Security Council, suggested Russia was seeking a pretext to stall the promised troop pullback.

"This statement is baseless," he told Reuters when asked to respond to the Russian allegations. "They are accusing the victim of aggression of not wanting the aggressor to leave its territory.

"Georgia, along with the whole of Europe, is waiting for Russian troops to leave," he said.

Separatist officials in Abkhazia, on the Black Sea coast, said on October 6 that their border guard was shot near the village of Nabakevi in the region's Gali district, adjacent to Georgian-controlled territory.

'We Know Nothing'

In Tbilisi, Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said: "We know nothing about this alleged incident. Georgian forces were not inside Abkhazian territory."

Months of skirmishes between separatists and Georgian troops erupted into war in August when Georgia sent troops and tanks to retake South Ossetia, which threw off Tbilisi's rule in a war in the early 1990s.

Russia's counterstrike drove the Georgian Army out of South Ossetia. Moscow's troops then pushed further into Georgia, including areas around Abkhazia, saying they needed to prevent further Georgian attacks.

There were fresh signs on October 6 that Russian troops were prearing to pull back from buffer zones around South Ossetia.

A Reuters reporter saw Russian soldiers winding cables, dismantling lighting, and loading trucks at the key Karaleti checkpoint on the main road north from the Georgian town of Gori to the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali.
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