Officials in Tbilisi described reports about South Ossetia clash which reportedly killed four armed men as “disinformation,” while officials in Tskhinvali announced that they are pulling out from talks and accused the Georgian side of “state terrorism.”
The South Ossetia side said that “a heavily-armed four-member Georgian saboteur-terrorist squad was liquidated” in a clash at dawn on October 31 near the village of Sinaguri, which is located in the north-west of the breakaway South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali.
But later the South Ossetian side reported the group was composed of “Chechen militants” who infiltrated the breakaway region’s territory from a Georgian-controlled area.
The Russian state-run television station Rossiya showed footage from the alleged scene of clash. The footage showed a corpse, explosives, Kalashnikov assault rifles and a book described by the presenter as “Wahhabism literature.”
“Now we are trying to find out identities of these criminals,” Nikolai Dolgopolov, chief of the South Ossetian security service, told the Russian television reporters.
“The [group] was plotting sabotage and terrorist acts on the eve of independence referendum in South Ossetia [on November 12] and it was also planning sabotage against major transportation infrastructure linking South Ossetia with Russia,” Eduard Kokoity told Interfax news agency.
He went on to say that he refuses to hold top-level talks with a state that is engaged in terrorism. The Georgian side proposed that talks between Kokoity and President Saakashvili be held at Bakuriani, a Georgian ski resort, in an attempt to increase confidence between the two sides.
Paata Bedianashvili, the Commander of the Georgian peacekeeping battalion stationed in the conflict zone, said he can not confirm the report as the venue of reported clash is out of the zone of peacekeepers’ responsibility.
“This village is out of the conflict zone, so I can not confirm or deny this report. We do not know what has happened, or if there were any Georgians [involved],” Bedianashvili told Civil Georgia via telephone on October 31.
Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said that reports about the clash “seem to be disinformation.”
“Somebody is trying to stir up tensions in the region. And disseminating disinformation has become a widespread practice recently. I can only reiterate that it [tension] is not in our interests. We intend to settle the problems peacefully,” Bezhuashvili told reporters before his departure to Moscow on October 31, where he is expected to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
The administration of the Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues said in a statement that “pre-election hysteria reached its peak” in breakaway South Ossetia, leading “to the dissemination of totally false information.”
Information from independent sources about the reported incident in the Java district of the breakaway region is not available.
In the past few days the South Ossetian side has been intensively reporting on “anticipated provocations” by the Georgian side to thwart the planned independence referendum and presidential polls on November 12.
Meanwhile, the Georgian side has carried out a rotation of its peacekeepers, which are part of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces (JPKF) in the conflict zone. The JPKF is made up of the Russian, Ossetian and Georgian battalions, each of which can have a maximum of 500 peacekeepers in the conflict zone.
The Russian command of the JPKF accused the Georgian side of violating the terms of rotation.
Paata Bedianashvili, commander of the Georgian peacekeeping battalion in the South Ossetian conflict zone, confirmed that the Georgian side has rotated its troops and their number is currently “less than 500.” The Russian peacekeepers said that Georgia currently has 423 servicemen in the peacekeeping battalion stationed in the villages of Nikozi, Achabeti and Eredvi.