MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Russia denied sending troops or military hardware to Georgia’s restive South Ossetia province–after Tbilisi sent a letter of protest to Moscow on Sunday about a column of trucks and military vehicles that drove from Russia into the separatist Georgian region that seeks to be a part of Russia.
Georgia’s State Minister for conflict resolution Goga Khaindrava–urged Russia on Tuesday–to withdraw its peacekeeping forces from the South Ossetian conflict zone.
"We [Georgia] can freely control the situation in breakaway South Ossetia. The Russian peacekeepers were deployed in the conflict zone 12 years ago–but they are no longer necessary–since they choose not to perform their functions," Goga Khaindrava said at a June 15 news briefing.
According to Georgian officials–the convoy of more than 15 trucks crossed from Russia’s North Ossetia region on Friday into Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia. Some of the trucks were carrying troops–missile launchers–automatic rifles–and other weapons. Russia’s Defense Ministry and South Ossetian officials have denied any cross-border military movemen’s–but the president of the breakaway region–Eduard Kokoity–said a "humanitarian column" had entered South Ossetia–Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
A Russian military official in North Ossetia said food–fuel–spare parts–and other supplies had been sent to Russian peacekeepers serving in the region.
Following Khaindrava’s allegations–the OSCE Mission in Georgia monitored the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone on June 12 and "found no evidence" of any military vehicles in the Tskhinvali area.
Asked whether Tbilisi is considering the possibility of military force in Abkhazia or South Ossetia–Georgia’s recently appointed defense Minister Georgy Baramidze said it would be the most undesirable option. "We will be doing everything to avoid the military solution. There are many mechanisms available–political–economic–and social. At the same time–we must be ready for all kinds of "surprises," he said.
As for the withdrawal of the Russian military bases from Batumi and Akhalkalaki–Baramidze said though the issue is important–improved Russian-Georgian bilateral relations are not tied to the issue.