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Russian news & information agency "RIA Novosti"
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Russia hands over control of Georgian buffer zones to EU

15:48 | 09/ 10/ 2008

MOSCOW, October 9 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has handed control of buffer zones adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia over to an EU monitoring mission in Georgia, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

The withdrawal of troops following a five-day armed conflict between Russia and Georgia was completed on Wednesday, two days ahead of a deadline agreed by the Russian and French presidents in September.

"As of October 9 control of the Georgian territories adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia has been completely handed over to the EU monitoring mission in Georgia, on the basis of an EU mandate," Andrei Nesterenko said.

The Russian and French presidents, Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy, agreed in September that Russia's full withdrawal from undisputed parts of Georgia should take place on October 10. EU monitoring teams were deployed in Georgia on October 1 in preparation for the handover.

The Russian diplomat added that the European monitors in Georgian areas neighboring on the rebel republics would do everything to prevent possible Georgian aggression against Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"We hope that UN and OSCE observers will take part in these efforts. It is crucial that no security vacuum occurs in the region following the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping contingent," he said.

Moreover, he said, Moscow hopes that the EU mission will prevent any "deployment of Georgian military forces and special forces in these regions," and any further provocation which could lead to increased tensions.

Earlier in the week the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "certain forces" in Georgia are intentionally escalating the situation in the Caucasus and trying to provoke a new armed conflict.

"We hope that maintaining law and order as well as preventing any provocation and incidents will be their [EU] main task," Nesterenko said.

A car bomb went off last Friday in the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, killing seven Russian peacekeepers. Georgia has denied any involvement in the bombing, accusing Russia of trying to delay its pullout from the buffer zone near South Ossetia.

The two republics broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s amid armed conflicts that claimed thousands of lives.

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19:11 10/10/2008 Medvedev says Russia met all Georgia ceasefire obligations
21:27 09/10/2008 Russia notifies EU of pullout from Georgia buffer zones
16:53 09/10/2008 S.Ossetia concerned over Georgian police numbers near border
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