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10 Oct, 2008 01:26

Fragile peace as EU peacekeepers replace Russians

After Russian troops left South Ossetia on Wednesday, European peacekeepers took their place – but some still consider this peace to be fragile.

The peacekeepers left the territory within seven hours in broad daylight so that European observers could witness the process. There are two hundred of them at the territory adjacent to South Ossetia at the moment.

Their mission is to maintain peace and stability in the area. According to Tbilisi, Georgian police will also be patrolling the territory.

However, South Ossetian officials said that the situation worsened at the Georgian-South-Ossetian border after the pullout.

South Ossetia's Acting Interior Minister, Mikhail Mindzaev, told RT: “Yesterday, immediately after the peacekeepers left, across the entire perimeter of the border the provocations resurfaced. We saw how a bunch of armed Georgians drove up to our posts, and began shouting at us and threatening us. After that, several other cars came to a place about 50 metres away from here and began provoking us to open fire. We didn't do anything and just observed them. The whole thing lasted 3 or 4 hours.”

The pullout fulfills the conditions of the Medevdev-Sarkozy plan. It follows a promise by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, made at the First World Policy Conference in France, that the Russian peacekeeping contingent would leave the security area by the end of Wednesday.

He expressed hope that the EU observers could provide stability.
“We want them to live up to their functions and act as guarantors of the non-use of force, who could prevent any provocation on the part of the Tbilisi regime. This is what we agreed upon with the European Union,” he said.
All six Russian checkpoints were dismantled during Wednesday’s withdrawal. The pullout process began on October 1, when European observers started to arrive to take over.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council has extended the mandate of UN observers in border areas between Georgia and Abkhazia till February 15 2009. The UN mission has been stationed in the region for the last 14 years.