|Ossetian militia groups at the entrance of Tskhinvali|
Following the detention of Russian peacekeepers’ trucks loaded with arms on July 7, South Ossetian militia groups detained dozens of Georgian peacekeepers deployed in the conflict zone overnight on July 7-8. Georgian State Minister Goga Khaindrava, who is in charge of the conflict resolution issues, said on July 8 that the situation in the conflict zone is “alarming.”
He said that around 50 Georgian peacekeepers have been detained and taken to the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, after being disarmed by the South Ossetian militia groups. “We regard the detained Georgian peacekeepers as hostages that are in the hands of Kokoev’s [South Ossetian de facto] regime,” Goga Khaindrava told Rustavi 2 television on July 8.
The Georgian State Minister also said that South Ossetian militia groups are deployed in several Georgian villages in the region of South Ossetia. “We have information that in the village of Vanati [populated by ethnic Georgians], South Ossetian armed groups are carrying out search operations in attempts to find weapons there,” Khaindrava said.
Georgian Imedi and Rustavi 2 televisions also reported that the Georgian populations living in the breakaway region are demandin that the Georgian authorities distribute arms “for self-defense” purposes. However, State Minister Goga Khaindrava called on those people to remain calm.
“No arms will be distributed. The Georgian government is capable of dealing with the problem. The situation is alarming, but there is no reason for panic,” he said.
“This is a provocation and the Georgian government will do everything in order to prevent any further deterioration of the situation. We will not yield to this provocation,” the Georgian State Minister added. He also said that Georgia will dispatch additional troops in the region “if necessary.”
Talks between Gogi Tatukhashvili and Viacheslav Nabdzorov, the Commander of the Georgian Internal Troops and the Commander of the Russian peacekeeping troops in the conflict zone, resepecfully, are planning to meet on July 8 to discuss the recent developments in the region.
Tensions in breakaway South Ossetia flared after Georgian internal troops and peacekeepers intercepted an arms convoy deployed in the conflict zone, which belonged to Russian peacekeepers .
The Georgian side seized two trucks loaded with arms that triggered protests from Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry, which demanded the immediate return of arms, accused the Georgian side of “forceful actions” in the conflict zone and described the arms seizure as “a provocation.”
“We have demonstrated that we will not tolerate the movement of unauthorized arms through Georgian territory,” said Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania on July 7.