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12 Oct, 2008 04:41

South Ossetians fear renewed Georgian aggression

People in South Ossetia fear they’re vulnerable to Georgian attack after the pull-out of Russian troops, claiming they’re now defenceless. European observers are in place instead, but they’re unarmed, and locals say they’re frightened of a repeat of Georg

The completion of the Russian withdrawal from Georgian territory this week was part of the peace plan brokered by the Russian and French presidents.

The pull-out was from territory adjoining South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

European Union observers watched every move of the departing Russian troops and now it’s their responsibility to keep the peace. But the fact they’re unarmed – and cannot interfere if violence breaks out – means there’s not a lot of confidence among locals on both sides.

“Now, the Georgians will be able to continue their provocations, shootings and bombings,” said South Ossetian resident Alic Dzigoev.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner came to visit the region, smiling to the cameras and promising everything would be okay. He also said Russia has only partially met its obligations in Georgia under the EU-negotiated ceasefire.

But Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the claims as unfounded.

“I’ve heard that some European representatives expressed their regret that the Russian peacekeepers hadn’t been withdrawn from the Akhalgori district,” he said. “But this would totally disagree with the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan. It says, plain and simple, that we withdraw troops from areas bordering South Ossetia and Abkhazia and they’ll be replaced by EU monitors. But Akhalgori is inside South Ossetia.”

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