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Russia Demands That Georgia Return Army Equipment

16 July 2004 -- The Russian military is demanding that Georgia return the army trucks its security forces seized last week in the separatist republic of South Ossetia.

Speaking at the end of a two-day meeting of the Joint Control Commission on South Ossetia in Moscow, General Valerii Yevnevich said he had conveyed his demand to the Georgian delegation.

"The vehicles with ammunition and personal belongings of the Russian military personnel must be returned without any preconditions to the same location where they were seized," he said.

Georgia claims the Russian convoy was loaded with ammunition meant for South Ossetia's separatist regime. Russia in turn says the consignment was destined for its peacekeeping force in the area.

The Moscow talks ended yesterday with all sides involved -- Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia, and Russia's republic of North Ossetia -- agreeing to work together toward avert further escalation in the region.

A string of incidents involving skirmishes and the capture of Georgian peacekeepers by South Ossetian forces has kept tension high in the area in the past two weeks.

South Ossetia seceded from Georgia in the early 1990s, but Georgia's new leaders have pledged to reassert Tbilisi's control over the province.

(RTR/Novosti gruziya)