June 18, 2008 / 6:41 AM / 11 years ago

Russia warns Georgia over peacekeepers' detention

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Georgia on Wednesday Moscow would not stand for “provocations” against Russian peacekeepers in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region.

Georgian police on Tuesday detained a group of Russian soldiers who they said were transporting weapons without permission. They later released them.

“Medvedev described as unacceptable provocations towards Russian peacekeepers,” the Kremlin said in a statement after the president spoke by telephone with his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili.

Russia has had peacekeeping troops in Abkhazia since the end of a separatist war in the 1990s and the region is a source of friction between the two countries.

“Last night, after interrogation, all four Russian peacekeepers were freed,” Shota Utiashvili, head of the analytical department of Georgia’s Interior Ministry, told Reuters.

Officials in Tbilisi said initially they had detained 14 Russian peacekeepers, but later revised the figure to four.

Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Eka Zguladze said Tbilisi did not intend to return the seized weapons to the Russian peacekeepers.

“They (the peacekeepers) didn’t present any legal documents related to the weapons, and the Georgian side wasn’t informed about this,” she told reporters.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday its peacekeepers were carrying the necessary documents and their detention was unlawful. It demanded the return of seized items, including ammunition.

On Tuesday, Georgian television showed police scuffling with armed Russian soldiers after stopping their convoy, then wrestling them into waiting jeeps.

Moscow alleges Tbilisi has been preparing to attack Abkhazia but Georgia’s pro-Western government, which has been promised eventual NATO membership, says it has no such plan and accuses Moscow of trying to annex the region.

Reporting by Niko Mchedlishvili and Dmitry Solovyov; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Charles Dick

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