Moscow is deeply concerned about the detention of a Russian peacekeeper motorcade in South Ossetia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Wednesday.
The Russian Foreign Minister recalled that on July 2 the Mixed Commission on the Settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict (Russia, Georgia, the Russian constituent republic of North Ossetia, and South Ossetia - a Georgian autonomous province that declared independence) had met in Moscow [to authorize the transfer].
On Wednesday about 5.00 a.m. Moscow time Georgian Interior Ministry troops detained a motorcade of Russian peacekeepers' trucks in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict area.
The Georgian Interior Ministry told RIA Novosti that the motorcade escorted by up to 40 Russian troops had carried radios, DPMs, tents, fuel, other hardware, and up to 300 helicopter-launched munitions from North Ossetian capital Vladikavkaz to South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali. Eight trucks of ten were returned to the Russian peacekeepers, the other two carrying munitions were confiscated.
According to the Georgian Interior Ministry, "Commander of the Mixed Peacekeeping Force in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict area General Svyatoslav Nabzdorov immediately arrived at the scene to say that the weapons were intended for a military airfield. He also said that the transfer had been authorized by the parties [to the conflict] within the framework of the Mixed Monitoring Commission."
The Russian Defense Ministry views the seizure as a provocation, chief of the Defense Ministry's press service Vyacheslav Sedov told RIA Novosti.
He emphasized that the village where the assets were seized lied within the security area. Within that area, he said, any action of law enforcement agencies must be adjusted with the command of the Mixed Peacekeeping Force, Mixed Monitoring Commission, and the unified military command.
"However, neither the command nor representatives of other bodies had not been notified of the action and were not present at the scene," Vyacheslav Sedov said.
He went on to say that the negotiations with Georgia on the settlement of the issue would continue.
Meanwhile, a BTR armored personnel carrier accommodating Georgian Interior Minister's escort team was detained in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict area, the information and media committee of the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia told RIA Novosti.
According to the spokesman for the committee, the APC was detained at 9.30 a.m. local time at the Georgian-laid road connecting the Gori district of Georgia with the Georgian villages of South Ossetia. The vehicle carried Georgians wearing peacekeepers' uniform but having no relevant identifications, he said.
According to the South Ossetian representative, the carrier was going back to the conflict area having escorted back home Georgian Interior Minister Irakly Okruashvili who had come to South Ossetia to command the seizure of the Russian motorcade.
Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania expressed his satisfaction with actions of Georgian law enforcement bodies in South Ossetia who had confiscated weapons from Russian peacekeepers in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict area.
"I would like to say I am satisfied with the job the Interior Ministry personnel have done. It is their personal courage that allowed them to settle a bad incident in the Tskhinvali region (the preferred Georgian name for South Ossetia - Ed.)," Mr. Zhvania told the government at a session in Tbilisi.
"Actually, several times this week our uniformed men had to curb provocations staged by Tskhinvali authorities," head of the Georgian government emphasized.
Georgia's State Minister for Separatist Conflicts Georgy Khaindrava in turn described transfer of weapons by Russian peacekeepers within the Georgian-Ossetian conflict area as "Commander of the Mixed Peacekeeping Force Svyatoslav Nabdzorov's unauthorized action."
"I don't want anyone to assign it to South Ossetia. I don't think they have something to do with this. It was Nabzdorov's arbitrary action," he said.
"I got a sense that Nabzdorov is doing something [wrong] each time relations are getting a little better and there are chances for a settlement," Mr. Khaindrava said.
In response to a question whether he thought General Nabzdorov was acting on his own accord or on an order from the Russian military leadership, Mr. Khaindrava said, "The peacekeepers' commander is a representative of the Russian Defense Ministry. It's only natural he did not act on his own - they are just doing what they have been accustomed to in the last years."
He disclosed that munitions the Georgians seized from the Russian peacekeepers had been first taken to the Georgian town of Gori and then forwarded to Tbilisi "to find out the circumstances of the affair, the reasons [for it], and why such things happen," as the Georgian minister put it.
Last moths Georgia had repeatedly tried to have General Nabzdorov dismissed from his post of Commander of the Mixed Peacekeeping Force in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict area, the State Minister also said.