Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Russia removes checkpoint, blames Georgia for blast

Russian troops removed on Sunday (5 October) one checkpoint near the breakaway province of South Ossetia, in line with a plan to pull out from Georgia proper by 10 October. But tensions run high after Moscow blamed Georgian secret services for a car bomb on Friday that killed nine Russians in the South Ossetian capital.

"Our observers went to the checkpoint in Ali, north-west of Gori, and saw that it has been dismantled," an EU Monitoring Mission spokesman told AFP, adding that this is the first dismantled checkpoint.

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  • President Dmitri Medvedev ordered a tightening of the security measures in South Ossetia after a car bomb blast (Photo: Kremlin.ru)

A regional police chief told Reuters the checkpoint was in the village of Nabakhtevi and had previously been manned by 20 to 30 Russian soldiers.

Some 200 unarmed EU observers from 22 nations are currently on the ground overseeing the Russian army's compliance with pledges made by Russia to withdraw all troops from the buffer zones and checkpoints set up outside the separatist regions.

Russia plans to keep troops inside the two breakaway provinces however, with president Medvedev ordering to beef up security measures in South Ossetia following a car bomb blast in the capital Tskhinvali on Friday, which killed eight Russian soldiers and three civilians.

The head of the Russian military's joint staff for the South Ossetia conflict zone was among the Russian soldiers killed, Russian media reported.

The Russian defence ministry in a statement called the attack "a carefully planned terrorist act aimed at preventing the implementation of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan," Russian news agency Ria Novosti reports.

A spokesman for the Russian public prosecutor added that there was "every reason to believe the explosion in Tskhinvali was arranged by Georgian secret services," in a view echoed by the leader of South Ossetia itself, Eduard Kokoity.

"It was an attack prepared by the Georgian national security ministry, we recognise their style," Mr Kokoity told ITAR-TASS.

Shota Utiashvili, head of the analysis department for the Georgian Interior Ministry, promptly denied the accusation.

"It's completely unclear how it could have been done by the Georgians ... We don't have access to Tskhinvali. We don't have access to the buffer zone. How could Georgia have been behind this?"

"This was a tactic to delay the withdrawal," he said.

War trophies in Moscow

Meanwhile, in Moscow, an exhibit has been set up in the military museum to cultivate theories backing the Kremlin view of the war in Georgia, Swiss paper Neue Zurcher Zeitung reports.

Pictures show Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili in erratic poses during a shelling in the town of Gori, with fear on his face, in support of the Kremlin theory of his insanity.

Among the objects on display are war trophies and memorabilia seized by Russian troops in Georgia, as well as a list of countries that supplied arms, military equipment and even items such as sleeping bags to Georgia, suggesting a world conspiracy against Russia.

The Swiss press is taking a fresh interest in the conflict after Switzerland agreed to represent the Kremlin in Georgia, following the severance of formal Georgia-Russia diplomatic ties.

Georgia needs €2 billion

Georgia will need at least €2.15 billion of international aid in the coming three years to support the economy until foreign investor confidence recovers from the shock conflict, according to a report to be published by the World Bank next week, seen by the Financial Times.

Much of this has already been pledged, including $1 billion (€727 million) from the United States and €500 million from the European Union, to be topped up by member countries.

Lado Gurgenidze, the Georgian prime minister, told the that FT inflows of private capital, which reached $2.3 billion last year and $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion in the first half of 2008, are expected to sink to $300 million to $400 million in the second half of this year.

Name row on new EU sanctions exposes deeper rift

EU officials have voiced scepticism on proposed new human rights sanctions, amid a "nasty" debate to what extent Russia ought to be named and shamed in the title of the new measures.

Hopeless Gaza Strip ripe for Islamic State, says UN head

Fears are mounting that more extreme militants, possibly linked to the Islamic State, will gain a foothold in the Gaza Strip as trapped youth lose all sense of hope in a conflict that is on the verge of boiling over.

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Leaked document sheds light on Turkey's controlled 'coup'

More than two years after the failed putsch, evidence is trickling out to support what the EU initially suspected - that Erdogan knew what was going to happen and let it go ahead as a pretext to create one-man rule.

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