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Russian Minister Slams Georgia Over Peacekeepers

Sergei Lavrov (file photo) (epa) 15 February 2006 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today accused Georgia's authorities of overstepping the limits of acceptable behavior in their recent actions toward Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia.

Lavrov described recent incidents between Russian peacekeepers and Georgian police in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone as apparent attempts by the Georgian side to "shift [onto Russia] the blame for their failure to open a dialogue" with the breakaway republic.

"What is happening there with regards to Russian peacekeepers is going beyond all limits, because facts are being ignored, disfigured, and misrepresented," Lavrov told reporters in Vienna today. "Provocation is routinely used against our peacekeepers in violation of all agreements. [The Georgians] are now demanding visas from them, which never happened before and the peacekeepers were always there as peacekeepers, in accordance with the mandate given by the CIS and supported by the OSCE."

The Georgian parliament is expected today to vote on a resolution calling on Russian peacekeepers to withdraw from South Ossetia.

In an address to parliament on 14 February, President Mikheil Saakashvili pledged again that Georgia will restore through peaceful means its control over South Ossetia and its other breakaway republic, Abkhazia.

He suggested Russia had imperial designs over the two regions, which have close ties with Moscow.

(Interfax, Novosti-Gruziya, AP)

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