Oct. 4 (Bloomberg) — The Russian Defense Ministry said an explosion in separatist South Ossetia that killed seven Russian military personnel, including a senior officer, was intended to break a cease-fire with Georgia.
The ministry “regards this event as a carefully planned terrorist attack aimed at breaking off the fulfillment of all sides’ obligations under the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan,” according to a statement posted on its Web site late yesterday. South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity blamed Georgia for the blast.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency, brokered the cease-fire that ended a five-day war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia in August. On Sept. 8, Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed on a timetable for the withdrawal of Russian troops from buffer zones that extend into Georgia from South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia.
South Ossetia won’t respond to the blast by asking Russian peacekeeping troops to remain in the buffer zone beyond Oct. 10, when they’re scheduled to be replaced by international monitors, including 200 from the EU, a government spokeswoman said.
“I don’t think the terrorist attack will change the current situation, or that the South Ossetian government will ask the Russian troops to remain in the buffer zone a little longer,” Irina Gagloyeva said today by telephone from the capital Tskhinvali.
Gagloyeva said a Russian officer, Ivan Petrik, head of the joint peacekeeping staff in South Ossetia, was one of the seven who died. Another eight servicemen were injured, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Russian peacekeepers stopped four men in two cars in a village near Tskhinvali yesterday afternoon and found firearms and grenades, the ministry said. One of the cars had Georgian license plates. The men had no documents. The cars were brought to the Russian peacekeepers’ base, where one car blew up during an inspection.
“This isn’t the first terrorist attack that Georgia has carried out, and it won’t be the last,” Gagloyeva said.
Kakha Lomaia, head of Georgia’s Security Council, yesterday “categorically denied” Georgian responsibility for the explosion.
The Georgian Interior Ministry countered the accusations late yesterday, saying “Russian intelligence forces” staged the blast “to hinder the withdrawal process of Russian occupants from the territories adjacent to the conflict zones.”
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war over South Ossetia in August. Russia later recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia, a move condemned by the U.S. and many European countries. Nicaragua also recognized the regions, and Somalia’s ambassador to Russia said his country plans to follow suit.
Last Updated: October 4, 2008 07:03 EDT
By Helena Bedwell