Georgia warns Russia against 'escalation' near breakaway region
Georgia on Tuesday accused Russia of cutting off its citizens from their farmland by installing border signposts demarcating the breakaway South Ossetia region, calling on Moscow to refrain from "escalation".
The signposts have been installed near three villages in recent days and land belonging to several local residents ended up beyond the demarcation line with South Ossetia, a Georgian region that declared independence and which Tbilisi considers occupied by Russia.
Tbilisi vowed to help local residents and accused Moscow of repeated provocations.
"The enemy is testing our patience on a daily basis," President Giorgi Margvelashvili said on Monday.
Defence Minister Tina Khidasheli said Tuesday that the government had a duty to "help local residents on the ground as quickly and efficiently as possible".
Russian troops have been installing barbed wire around South Ossetia since Tbilisi's defeat in the brief 2008 Russia-Georgia war over control of the Moscow-backed separatist region.
After the war, Moscow recognised South Ossetia -- along with the Georgian separatist enclave of Abkhazia -- as independent states and stationed thousands of troops in the regions that make up some 20 percent of Georgian territory.
The breakaway regions, whose self-proclaimed independence has been recognised by only a handful of countries, are heavily dependent on Russia's military and financial support.
Local residents estimated that the new border signposts effectively moved the demarcation line by 800 metres deeper into Georgia's territory, according to Georgian media.
Georgia's foreign ministry called the installation of the border signposts "another provocative act by Moscow which threatens security and stability and violates fundamental rights of local residents".
"Georgia once again calls on the Russian Federation to fullfil its international commitments and refrain from actions that may cause further escalation," it added in a statement.
Last month a similar move left a portion of an international pipeline beyond Georgia's control, leading the foreign minister to decry "creeping annexation".
Georgians later removed the signs but they were erected again last week, the foreign ministry said Monday, adding that it has handed a formal note of protest to Moscow.
© 2015 AFP