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South Ossetian Forces Start Georgia Village Pullout

TBILISI (Reuters) -- South Ossetian forces began on November 15 pulling out of the Georgian village of Perevi on the border of the breakaway territory, a police official said.

"This morning they started to demolish their checkpoint. By now, almost everything has been packed up, and they are moving to the other side of the border, leaving the village," the senior police official told Reuters.

Georgia on November 9 accused South Ossetian forces of occupying the village after Russian forces pulled back, drawing warnings from EU officials monitoring a cease-fire.

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

Russian troops pulled back from a buffer zone around South Ossetia in 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 November 15, and dozens of South Ossetian "militiamen" had moved in to replace them, scaring villagers.

EU officials monitoring a cease-fire said they were concerned about the situation in Perevi and called on all sides "to prevent provocations."

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.