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EU, US call on Russia to prevent escalation at South Ossetia border

The European Union’s Monitoring Mission in Georgia and the State Department of the United States have called on Russia to prevent any further escalation along the Georgian border line, following the escalation of tension over an ultimatum from the de-facto South Ossetian (Tskhinvali) authorities, with Georgian deputy interior minister Vladimir Bortsvadze saying that the situation is now stable, the Georgian press have reported.

Mr Bortsvadze’s statement comes after Russian troops from the occupied South Ossetian region were mobilised near the government-controlled village of Chorchana on August 28, close to the Russian occupation line. In response, Georgian authorities decided to set up a new police checkpoint for which the South Ossetian side replied by an ultimatum, promising counter-actions unless the police blockade is removed.

The Georgian government refused to dismantle the checkpoint and claimed that South Ossetian allegations saying that the police blockade poses a security threat were “groundless.” Local Georgian authorities claimed that the situation is now stabilised.

“This has always been the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia, as noted by the same European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM),” said deputy foreign minister Lasha Darsalia after attending a meeting with South Ossetia’s security officials on August 29.

EU ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell also called the mobilisation of Russian troops unacceptable.

“In this situation, it is necessary to stay calm, not to allow the forces that want to exacerbate the situation to get everything out of control,” Georgia Today quoted Georgian foreign minister Davit Zalkaliani as saying.

On August 30, the Georgian foreign ministry issued a statement, calling on the international community “international community to give due reaction on the illegal developments at the occupation line and take the relevant measures to ensure these actions are ceased.”

Speaking after a meeting with South Ossetian representatives after the ultimatum’s expiry on August 30, the chief of staff of the Georgian National Security Council Kakhaber Kemoklidze called the meeting constructive, adding that “the parties agreed that concrete steps should be taken to de-escalate the situation.” At the same time, EUMM head Erik Høeg claimed that the meeting was” disrupted due to disagreements on how to respond to developments” at the occupation line.

“(…) We call on the Russian Federation to utilize all available channels to prevent further escalation of the situation along the ABL [occupation line],” US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“Tbilisi deliberately escalated tensions on the border through provocative actions and political propaganda campaigns supported by the western countries,” the Russian foreign ministry said in their response.

On September 1, South Ossetia’s de facto authorities claimed that the Georgian army had opened fire on one of their aerial vehicles. Tbilisi denied the accusations.