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South Ossetians Enter Georgian Village; EU Concerned

TBILISI (Reuters) -- Georgia has accused South Ossetian security forces of occupying a Georgian village outside the borders of the breakaway territory, drawing warnings from EU officials monitoring a cease-fire.

The Georgian government said two South Ossetian tanks and 50 men had entered the village of Perevi on South Ossetia's western flank after Russian forces pulled back.

But the region's de facto president said South Ossetian forces had entered part of the village lying within its borders.

"Unfortunately it seems the Georgian leadership is bad at geography and doesn't even know the borders of its own state," Eduard Kokoity told Interfax news agency.

Russian troops pulled back from a buffer zone around South Ossetia in early October after fighting off a Georgian bid to retake the region in August. But they kept one checkpoint in Perevi, a village of around 1,000 people west of the boundary.

Georgian security officials said the Russians began pulling out on November 8, and dozens of South Ossetian "militiamen" had moved in to replace them, scaring villagers.

A senior Georgian police officer in the region told Reuters that police had been placed on standby. "Now we're waiting for some kind of assistance from the EU monitors."

It was not clear whether all the Russian soldiers had vacated the village.

'Prevent Provocations'

More than 200 unarmed EU monitors are observing the cease-fire, already strained by accusations of border attacks and kidnappings from both sides since the Russian pullback.

The EU mission said it was concerned about the situation in Perevi and called on all sides "to prevent provocations."

The mission said in a statement the Russian checkpoint in Perevi was "clearly located to the west" of the boundary line.

"Evidence on the ground seems moreover to suggest that Russian military forces will be replaced by forces of the South Ossetian de facto authorities," it said. "This would further exacerbate tensions to the detriment of the civilian population in and around the village of Perevi."

Russia intervened in ex-Soviet Georgia in early August to halt a Georgian military bid to retake pro-Russian South Ossetia, which threw off Tbilisi's rule in the early 1990s.

Under Western pressure, Russian forces pulled back to within South Ossetia and the second breakaway region of Abkhazia, but the Kremlin recognized both regions as independent states.