Georgia and rebel South Ossetia swap 26 prisoners

30th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Georgia and its rebel region of South Ossetia exchanged 26 prisoners on Friday in the biggest swap in years, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said.

Tensions have remained high between Georgia and the Moscow-backed South Ossetian separatists since the tiny province was the focus of a brief Georgia-Russia war in 2008, with each accusing the other of wrongful detentions of peaceful civilians.

The exchange of 13 prisoners from each side was organised by the European Union's post-war monitoring mission in Georgia and the OSCE.

"Todays exchange of detainees is an important step towards building trust and helping to ensure freedom of movement," OSCE chairperson-in-office Audronius Azubalis said in a statement.

Moscow recognised South Ossetia as an independent state after the 2008 war but Tbilisi says it is occupied by the thousands of Russian troops stationed there, and accuses the Kremlin of supporting the "ethnic cleansing" of the Georgian population from the region.

© 2011 AFP

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