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Russia warns Georgia of negative outcome over peacekeepers' arrest

RIA Novosti

13/09/2007 15:47 (Adds ministry's quotes, background, details in paragraphs 3-7)

MOSCOW, September 13 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday the detention of Russian peacekeepers by Georgia August 29 was a 'blunt arbitrariness' on behalf of the ex-Soviet republic.

"Despite demarches of the Russian Foreign Ministry and appeals from the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi, our military servicemen have not been released yet and our consulate general staff members were not permitted to see them," the ministry said in a statement.

On August 29, Georgian Interior Ministry officers apprehended three peacekeepers from the joint forces' North Ossetian battalion, and although one of them was released, two were sentenced later to two months imprisonment.

"Such blunt arbitrariness in regard to Russian citizens goes beyond the norms of civilized intergovernmental relations," the statement said. "Georgia is completely responsible for the [possible] negative consequences in bilateral relations."

Earlier, Georgian authorities reported that Interior Ministry officers had detained Tariel Khachirov and Vitaly Valiyev on suspicion of illegally detaining nine Georgians August 26 and 27.

"The Georgian Foreign Ministry did not provide any intelligible explanations for the forcible actions on behalf of Georgian law enforcement against the peacekeepers. There was no evidence provided of the crimes that they [the peacekeepers] had allegedly perpetrated," the ministry said.

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia following a bloody conflict that left hundreds dead in 1991-1992, and peacekeepers have been stationed in the region ever since.

They consist of Russian, Georgian and North Ossetian battalions comprising 500 peacekeepers each. North Ossetia is a Russian republic in the North Caucasus.

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