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Georgia Falsely Accuses Russia Of New Land Grab

EU monitors said there was minimal evidence to substantiate the Georgian claims.

EU monitors said there was minimal evidence to substantiate the Georgian claims.

The Georgian Interior Ministry formally accused Russia on September 29 of illegally occupying some 25 hectares of Georgian territory in the course of what it termed the demarcation of the border between Georgia and the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. But after inspecting the area in question, the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) issued a statement two days later saying there was minimal evidence to substantiate the Georgian claims.

The original Georgian Interior Ministry statement accused Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) troops of "seizing" 25 hectares of farmland near the village of Kvemo Nikozi during demarcation of the border on September 29, thereby hindering Georgian access to water supplies. An official from the Russian Federal Border Service, which is subordinate to the FSB, denied later the same day that any border-demarcation work was under way. And within hours, the Georgian Interior Ministry revised the text of its statement to remove any reference to illegally occupied farmland.

But Georgia's Interim Parliament Commission for Territorial Integrity repeated in an official appeal to the international community on October 1 the initial claim that Russian border guards had encroached on Georgian agricultural land, Caucasus Press reported. The same day, the Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the "illegal border-demarcation work" as a violation both of the August 2008 cease-fire agreement that ended the Georgian-Russian conflict over South Ossetia and of the rights of the Georgian population of the villages in question.

Later on October 1, the EUMM issued a statement saying that its observers had inspected the area in question and found "no evidence" of border demarcation in four of the five villages Tbilisi claimed were targeted. The statement said EUMM patrols had found four improvised steel markers in the ground at Ditsi, close to the existing administrative boundary line, but "were unable to find any further evidence of 'demarcation' activities in the other areas."

Whether the Georgian claims were intended to demonize Russia in the eyes of the international community on the eve on NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's visit to Tbilisi remains unclear. Rasmussen told journalists on October 1 he "would expect the NATO summit in Lisbon to reaffirm our position which we took already in Bucharest in 2008, that Georgia will become a member of NATO once Georgia fulfills the necessary criteria."

But he declined to predict whether and when Georgia might be offered a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) -- the final stage before a formal invitation is extended to join the alliance. Georgia's leaders had lobbied desperately for an MAP in the run-up to the Bucharest summit in April 2008.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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