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19 Jun, 2008 08:34

Russian peacekeepers ‘could have used weapons in self-defence’

Russia's Defence Ministry says its peacekeepers in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone could have used their weapons in self-defence.

The statement was made after four Russians were detained by Georgian police in the conflict zone on Tuesday. They were accused of smuggling arms and their cargo consisting of weapons was seized.

Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Burutin, First Deputy Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, said:

“I have to point out that under the circumstances the Russian peacekeepers had the right to use weapons. But our peacekeepers practised restrained to avoid casualties. We cannot guarantee that the servicemen would act as patiently as they did. Their patience has limits. Consequences could be very grave, even bloody, and responsibility for these provocations and their aftermath would lie on the Georgian side.”

The men were released nine hours after they were detained, but the police seized the military cargo which they were transporting to their camp.

The cargo consisted of anti-tank rocket propelled grenades.

Russia says the munitions are allowed under the agreements, but Georgia says the weapons are illegal in the conflict zone.

Earlier, Russia's Defence Ministry said the incident was a provocation by Georgia – aimed at destabilising the situation in the region.

Abkhazia's push for independence from Georgia led to a year-long war in the early 90s, but the breakaway republic hasn't been internationally recognised.

Medvedev says provocations are unacceptable

And during a telephone conversation with his Georgian counterpart Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev said further provocations against peacekeepers in the conflict zone are unacceptable.

According to the Kremlin press-service, Mikhail Saakashvili promised to look into the incident.

Abkhazia accuses Georgia of resuming spy flights

Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia says Tbilisi has resumed flights of its spy drones over the region's territory.

It claims two planes were spotted last week over the area which is controlled by peacekeeping forces.

Georgia's Interior Ministry denies the accusations, calling them a deliberate act of misinformation.

Blasts in Abkhazia aimed at Russians

Meanwhile, two bombs have exploded on a railroad near the Abkhazian capital, Sukhumi. Eyewitnesses say the blasts occurred within 7-10 minute intervals.

The incident happened in the area, where Russian soldiers had been repairing the track. It is rumored the blast were targeted against Russian railway troops.

No casualties have been reported and security has been stepped up in the area.