Authorities in breakaway South Ossetia have denied that its militias were involved in the incident on January 16, which resulted into death of a Georgian policeman.
The Georgian Interior Ministry said the policeman was killed with a single shot fired apparently from sniper rifle with silencer from the areas controlled by the Russian troops and South Ossetian militias. The incident occurred in the village of Knolevi at the immediate vicinity of the administrative border.
“The nearest South Ossetian post to the village of Knolevi is located about four-five kilometers away from the village and it is impossible to fire a shot in this distance even from a sniper rifle,” the South Ossetian Press and Information Committee said on its website.
Anatoly Tarasov, head of the Russian garrison in the breakaway capital, Tskhinvali, said in remarks posted on the same website, that he was informed about the incident by EU monitors and the Georgian Interior Ministry.
“In connection with this incident the command of the Russian military garrison is undertaking number of measures with a goal to stabilize the situation,” he said. “The Russian military personnel were sent to the border area in order to prevent further escalation of tensions.”
Rustavi 2 TV interviewed several local residents of the Knolevi village, who said they had seen a Russian helicopter dropping off about couple of dozen of Russian troops in the areas adjacent to the village after the incident; they also said that later the helicopter took the Russian soldiers back from the area.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the shooting of the Georgian policeman represented continuation of “deliberate provocative acts” and Russia as an occupying force “bears responsibility” for those actions. It also said that the recent incident once again underscored an urgent need for EU monitors to be able to observer situation inside the breakaway regions.
EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) has condemned the incident as a violation of the ceasefire accord.
“We are very concerned to learn of this incident,” General Gilles Janvier, the deputy head of the EUMM, said in a statement. “This attack, whilst a policeman was going about his lawful duties, is a totally unacceptable breach of the Sarkozy–Medvedev Agreements under which all sides agreed to end hostilities.”
“We expect this incident to be thoroughly investigated on both sides of the South Ossetian Administrative Boundary line and those responsible duly prosecuted,” he added.
The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, has also condemned the shooting and called for a thorough investigation.
”Such acts deliberately aggravate tensions and threaten stability in the region. All parties must understand their responsibility to prevent further violence,” she said in a statement.
When asked about the incident at a news conference in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said he hadn't heard about this particular case, but accused Georgian authorities in general of propaganda aimed at raising tensions.
“In order to normalize the situation Georgia should implement its commitments under the Sarkozy-Medvedev plan and should not allow presence of its troops beyond their permanent places of location,” Lavrov said.