Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 12:28 UK

Russia praises EU role in Georgia

EU monitors on South Ossetia-Georgia boundary
EU monitors have not been allowed into S Ossetia to verify reports

Russia says EU monitors have helped stabilise the situation in Georgia since last year's war, but has rejected any similar role for the US.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the peace plan brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy "continues to be a most serious stabilising factor".

He accused Georgia of trying to "drag the Americans into Georgia" and put them up against the Russian military.

Russian troops ousted Georgian forces from South Ossetia nearly a year ago.

Mr Sarkozy, acting on behalf of the EU, brokered a ceasefire after five days of fighting in and around the breakaway territory, where separatists are backed by Russian troops.

Russia has beefed up its military presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia - another breakaway region in Georgia - and has recognised both territories as independent.

The Georgia-South Ossetia boundary remains tense, with both sides accusing each other of cross-border shooting. Russia has heightened its forces' state of alert in South Ossetia.

The Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Giga Bokeria, said Russia was escalating the situation by its actions and rhetoric.

Russia criticises Biden

The 225 EU monitors are spending more time keeping watch along the boundary, but so far have been unable to find evidence for any of the claims of violations, the BBC's Tom Esslemont reports.

Speaking in a Russian television interview on Wednesday, Mr Lavrov said the Georgia conflict had had "no effect whatsoever" on the decisions reached during US President Barack Obama's visit to Moscow last month.

He said the position of Russia's Western partners towards Georgia had changed and "there are no longer emotional outbursts, they are just going through the motions, I would say".

But he criticised a recent interview that US Vice President Joe Biden gave to the Wall Street Journal, in which he described Russia as a weakened nation because of the economic crisis.

Mr Lavrov said that was "reminiscent of speeches by leading officials in the George Bush administration".

Mr Biden voiced support for Georgia on a recent visit to Tbilisi, but he resisted Georgian pressure to send US monitors to the region.

The EU has urged Russia and Georgia to show restraint as the anniversary of the war, on 7 August, approaches.

The EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) is the only organisation now monitoring the boundary line.

It has called for unrestricted access on both sides of the boundary. But Russian and Ossetian forces have not allowed EU personnel into South Ossetia to check the allegations of Georgian attacks.

Troop deployments

Russia currently has about 1,000 troops in Abkhazia and about 800 in South Ossetia, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, said on Wednesday.

He said the strength would be increased to about 1,500 in each territory by the end of this year, "substantially lower than the initial figure".

Last year Russia announced plans to keep 3,800 troops in Abkhazia and the same number in South Ossetia.

Meanwhile, a senior Russian commander, Gen Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said four captured US Humvee armoured vehicles would remain in Russian hands as "trophies".

The vehicles had been used in joint US-Georgian military exercises.

Gen Nogovitsyn also said Russia had lost four aircraft and four pilots during the war with Georgia. The fate of a fifth pilot, who flew a Tu-22 bomber, was unknown, he said.


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