Four Russian peacekeepers arrested in Georgia set free 2008-06-18 17:29:53   Print

    MOSCOW, June 18 (Xinhua) -- Georgian police said Wednesday four Russian peacekeepers arrested Tuesday for allegedly smuggling arms out of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia had been set free, local media reported.

    Georgia detained four Russian peacekeepers and a military truck in the conflict zone between Georgia and its breakaway Abkhazia, accusing the peacekeepers of transporting ammunition and shells without coordination with the Caucasus states.

    "The four detainees were freed after nine hours of questioning. They were given back their automatic weapons and passports. The military cargo was confiscated," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted the Georgian police as saying.

    Georgia's Interior Ministry said Tuesday that the peacekeepers were transporting 35 crates of ammunition, including guided missiles and anti-tank mines. "This type of arms is not allowed in the conflict zone. This is a violation of existing agreements," the police said.

    "The Russians made an attempt to create a kind of military base at their headquarters in the Georgian district of Zugdidi, but we will not allow this to happen," said Mamuka Kurashvili, a senior Georgian Defense Ministry official.

    The Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday the arrest was "in violation of all regulatory norms in the buffer zone." Moscow has denied Tbilisi's accusations of seeking to annex Abkhazia and condemned Georgia's policy toward the breakaway region as conducive to new bloodshed.

    The Collective Peacekeeping Force was deployed in the conflict zone in 1994. The northern part of the security zone is controlled by the breakaway region of Abkhazia and the southern part is controlled by Georgia.

    Relations between Russia and Georgia were strained because of Georgia's bid to join NATO and Russia's allegedly support to Georgia's breakaway regions. Bilateral ties have further deteriorated in recent months, since Russia stepped up support for Abkhazia and sent more troops into the region.

Editor: Pliny Han
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