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Georgia: Troops Sent To South Ossetia In Antismuggling Move

Tbilisi, 11 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia today sent special forces into its separatist republic of South Ossetia in an antismuggling operation. Georgian Defense Ministry spokesman Nika Laleashvili said the move had to do with the "battle against smuggling of food and fuel from Russia."

Laleashvili said the operation was coordinated with Russian peacekeepers stationed in South Ossetia. Russian peacekeepers work together with Georgian forces in the republic.

South Ossetia criticized the operation, with Djemal Karkusov, who heads the separatist republic's Security Council, saying that Tbilisi "should have informed" the South Ossetian government prior to the move.

Laleashvili said there was no need to coordinate the operation with South Ossetia "because we came to the aid of our law-enforcement authorities."

South Ossetia, which fought a war against Tbilisi with support from Moscow, wants to join Russia.