Angry Georgians Throw Gas and Paint on Russian Peacekeepers
Hundreds of ethnic Georgians confronted Russian peacekeeping forces in the breakaway region of South Ossetia Thursday, throwing paint and gasoline on them and forcing them to stop blocking a road project, officials said.According to Associated Press, the incident near the ethnic Georgian village of Tsunar highlighted tensions persisting in South Ossetia, which broke away from Georgian government control during a war in the early 1990s.
Georgia’s government has vowed to bring South Ossetia, and the region of Abkhazia, back under control. South Ossetia, which has a patchwork of ethnic Ossetian and ethnic Georgian villages, has, however, cultivated close ties with Russia, and Georgia accuses Moscow of siding with the separatists.
Several dozen Russian peacekeepers, who comprise one-third of the three-sided force observing the peace in South Ossetia, deployed armored vehicles Wednesday near the village of Tsunar, north of the regional capital Tskhinvali, where Georgian workers were building a bypass road to several Georgian villages.
“This is good when roads are built, but this should be done with a decision by the Joint Control Commission,” Gen. Marat Kulakhmetov, commander of the joint peacekeeping forces, said in comments broadcast Thursday.
Residents from three Georgian villages mobbed the peacekeepers on Thursday, demanding they allow the road work to continue. Irina Gagloyeva, a spokeswoman for South Ossetia’s unrecognized government, said villagers then threw paint on the Russian armored personnel carriers and gasoline on a nearby peacekeeper post.
Russian television broadcast footage showing tank-like vehicles and Russian soldiers spattered with red, yellow and green paint and villagers whacking personnel carriers with sticks and shovels and waving Georgian flags.
Georgian peacekeepers arrived at the scene with armored personnel carriers later, said Col. Mamuka Kurashvili, the Georgian peacekeeper commander, and the Russians withdrew.
The South Ossetian government also reported gun-, grenade- and mortar-fire coming from several Georgian-controlled villages surrounding Tskhinvali late Thursday. Kurashvili, however, denied there was any such shooting.
Earlier this year, Saakashvili ordered the creation of a parallel South Ossetian government loyal to Tbilisi, but the provisional administration has effective control only over the villages populated by an estimated 14,000 ethnic Georgians and making up roughly 40 percent of South Ossetia’s territory.
Georgian authorities hope the administration will sap support from South Ossetia’s current government, which is unrecognized anywhere though is tacitly backed by Russia, which has given passports to many of the estimated 65,000 ethnic Ossetians who live there.
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