Russian troops retook a village near the breakaway region of South Ossetia Saturday just hours after withdrawing, Georgia’s Interior Ministry and European Union peace observers said.
The move drew criticism from Georgia, the EU and U.S. Senator John Kerry, who was on a half-day visit to Tbilisi.
Georgian police had already moved into Perevi on Saturday to remove Russian-built roadblocks when Russian troops and helicopters unexpectedly returned, said Shota Utiashvili, a ministry spokesman.
“They left, and we went in with about 40 people to remove the roadblocks,” he said. “While they were doing this, the Russians deployed a battalion of special forces with helicopters and armor and told the Georgian policemen to get out immediately,” he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry refused immediate comment and South Ossetian officials could not be immediately reached.
By MATT SIEGEL, Associated Press Writer
A Russian armoured vehicle drives through the Georgian village of Kvemo-Achebeti in August 2008. Georgia has said that hundreds of Russian troops have moved into a disputed Georgian village near the rebel region of South Ossetia after previously appearing to be pulling out of Perevi.(AFP/File/Dmitry Kostyukov)
The European monitoring mission, which is observing an EU-brokered cease-fire, quickly issued a statement calling on Russia to pull back once more.
“The renewed Russian military occupation of the Perevi checkpoint, and in addition, the Perevi village, is incompatible with the provisions of the … peace plan,” the statement said.
The mission added that it was unacceptable that Russian troops had stopped EU ambassadors from visiting Perevi.
Kerry, in Tbilisi to meet with the government, the opposition and President Mikhail Saakashvili, addressed reporters at the airport before leaving.