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Russia-Georgia Tensions Rise After Seizure

7 July 2004 -- Tensions between Russia and Georgia rose today, after the overnight seizure by Georgian forces of Russian military trucks loaded with arms in South Ossetia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed his "serious concern" over the incident.

Russia's Ambassador to Georgia Vladimir Chkhikvishvili used even stronger language, calling the Georgian action a "crude provocation" and demanding the immediate return of the equipment.

Russia says the equipment was destined for Russian peacekeeping forces in the separatist republic and had been agreed ahead of time.

Georgian State Security Minister Vano Merasbishvili, speaking in Tbilisi, accused Russia of supplying the separatist South Ossetian leadership.

South Ossetia has run its own affairs since it broke away from Tbilisi's control in a war that ended in 1992.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has made reimposing central authority over the region a top priority.