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Russian Troops Demarcate Part Of Georgian Oil Pipeline

Protesters remove a border sign erected by Russian and Ossetian troops along Georgia's de-facto border with its breakaway region of South Ossetia in the village of Khurvaleti on July 14.

TBILISI -- Georgian authorities have expressed concern over recent demarcation activities by Russian troops in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia that appear to leave a 1,605-meter portion of the strategic Baku-Supsa oil pipeline outside Tbilisi's control.

The Georgian Interior Ministry announced that "a certain portion of the pipeline next to the village of Orchosani fell within occupied territory" under the actions of the Russian soldiers, who have been stationed in that part of northern Georgia since a five-day war in August 2008.

On July 13, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said the situation would in no way affect the importance of Georgia's strategic transit route.

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili in May 2015
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili in May 2015

"Every new meter of dividing line on Georgian sovereign territory is unacceptable; it is especially unacceptable when such a dividing line runs in the close vicinity of strategic facilities" Margvelashvili said, adding, "but Georgia's function as a transit country, which we are efficiently developing, will not be lessened; on the contrary, it will be further strengthened in the future."

Margvelashvili's remarks came after a meeting with the head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia, Kestutis Jankauskas, as well as with representatives from global oil and gas giant BP in Georgia and state-owned Georgian Oil & Gas Corporation.

Moscow recognized declarations of independence by South Ossetia and another rogue Georgian republic, Abkhazia, within weeks of Russia's conflict with Georgia seven years ago.

The new banners to mark what the Russian military regards as the South Ossetian border were placed near Georgia's main east-west highway, which is used by most traffic from neighboring Azerbaijan and Armenia to Black Sea ports and to Turkey.

The Baku-Supsa pipeline -- also known as Western Route Export Pipeline (WREP) -- is 830 kilometers long and runs from Azerbaijan to the Georgian Black Sea terminal of Supsa. It has a capacity of 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

Georgian Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze previously suggested the small section of WREP that now appears to fall outside Tbilisi's control, by virtue of the Russian troops' demarcation, could be rerouted if there were any obstacles to its operation.

Georgia calls the two separatist regions "occupied territories."

With reporting by