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Top Russian peacekeeper to stay - despite Georgian objections

The acting Commander of the Peacekeeping Forces in the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict zone is to stay in his job. There are no plans to replace him.

The CIS Council of Ministers say they have confidence in General Sergey Chaban despite calls for his removal by the Georgian President.

The commander has been declared persona non grata by Georgia following a clash between Georgian police and Russian peacekeepers. Earlier in the week, President Saakashvili demanded General Sergey Chaban leave Georgia within a day.

The speaker of the Georgian parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze, insists Chaban's presence in Georgia is invalid:

It's clear that this is yet another provocation from the Georgian authorities. It was well-planned, but that does not make it any less crooked. Lately, President Saakashvili has been having some serious problems inside his country. The country is being shaken by scandals, all democratic rights and freedoms are being violated, and the opposition is being suppressed.

Konstantin Kosachev, the Head of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee

“A civilised way would be for Russia to apologise, explain what happened and punish those guilty.”

Russian officials have called the fracas a planned provocation.

Saakashvili's ultimatum

Georgian President made a statement at a special session of the country's National Security Council that was convened to discuss an incident between Georgian troops and the Russian peacekeepers.

“We demand your military leave the county. General Chaban is persona non grata in Georgia. We demand to stop all the provocations. We won't tolerate any similar incident and will respond immediately,” said Mikhail Saakashvili.

The incident started Tuesday morning. The Russian peacekeepers said they were patrolling an area near the Black Sea coast looking for dead animals as part of a hygienic mission, when three Georgian policemen approached the peacekeepers' armoured vehicle and threatened to burn it.

Russian peacekeepers disarmed and detained Georgian policemen but later handed them back to the Georgian side.

The Abkhazian side says that Georgia is merely trying to discredit the Russian peacekeeping force which has been in the conflict zone since the end of the Abkhaz-Georgian war in early 1990s.

Opposition rally planned

The speaker of the Abkhazian parliament Nugzar Ashuba adds the Georgian government is using attacks on peacekeepers to distract attention ahead of a major opposition rally scheduled for November, 2.

The opposition are preparing for a large-scale rally outside parliament, and are fuelling speculation that Badri Patarkatsishvili, who is thought to be the world’s richest Georgian, will officially enter politics.

Patarkatsishvili has been accused by the government of conspiring to stage a virtual revolution to remove them from power using Imedi TV, an independent TV station which he founded five years ago.

On Wednesday News Corporation, the world’s largest media company, took full legal power of attorney over Imedi TV.

“They’ll be no changes. There is no bias at Imedi in terms of how we report news. We are part of News Corporation and part of that is Fox News. They have a saying ‘we report, you decide’ and that’s what we do,” Newsmedia Caucasus Chief Executive Louis Robertson said.

Meanwhile, one of the Georgian businessman's main allies, Irakly Okruashvili, who is the former defence minister, has reportedly been forced out of the country.

The claim came from an opposition leader in Tbilisi.