Georgian, Russian Clash Narrowly Averted
Russian u-turn on withdrawal from Georgian village (http://wikimapia.org/7441310/ru/Переви) underlines fragility of peace agreement.
By Koba Liklikadze in Jria (CRS No. 473 18-Dec-08)
Georgian and Russian forces late last week nearly came to blows again over a village on the western edge of South Ossetia.
The Russian military withdrew early on December 12 from the ethnic Georgian village of Perevi, where it had stayed for over four months, in spite of demands from Georgia and the European Union to leave. But they returned the same evening after a heavily armed Georgian special police unit deployed there.
After some threatening gestures by both sides and talks that lasted until the next morning, the Russians pushed the Georgian police out of Perevi and refused to let a delegation of EU ambassadors into the village. The incident has worried local people, whose lives have been turned upside down by the crisis with Russia.
In the nearby village of Jria, 70-year-old Parviz Bakradze sits at home by an iron stove. His home is 200 metres from Perevi, where many of his relatives and friends live. The Ossetian villages of Sinaguri and Jalabeti are two kilometres away.
But Bakradze says the Georgian and Ossetian villages do not communicate the way they used to before the first conflict over South Ossetia broke out in 1991.
“We used to feast together, with our arms on each other’s shoulders,” said Bakradze. “They wouldn’t hold a wedding without inviting us to it. There wasn’t a single wedding or funeral there without at least half of Perevi’s people present.”
Bakradze says he does not know much about “big politics” but that both sides played their parts in the latest tension.
“This is how I see it,” he said. “The Russians say that only a small [Georgian] police squad was supposed to replace them after their withdrawal from Perevi. Instead, several dozen cars carrying Georgian militaries and policemen, all of them armed to their teeth, entered the village, and the Russians were angry.