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Provocations possible in South Ossetia - Russia's peacekeeper

TBILISI, July 12 (RIA Novosti) - A top peacekeeper in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia said Wednesday provocations orchestrated by Georgia were possible in the conflict zone.

His statement follows allegations by Russia's security services that Georgia was planning provocations in the region during the Group of Eight summit to be held this weekend in St. Petersburg.

"I do not rule out such a scenario. The situation in the conflict zone is abnormal," said Marat Kulakhmetov, commander of the joint peacekeeping forces.

He said peacekeepers had been on high alert to prevent any incidents.

Georgia's president has sought to return the region to the fold of the country after South Ossetia proclaimed independence in 1990 and fighting broke out. Russia has had peacekeepers stationed in the conflict zone to maintain a ceasefire since 1992.

Boris Chochiyev, the first vice-premier of South Ossetia, said during a phone call from Tskhinvali, the region's center, that South Ossetia also had the information about the possible provocations but was unaware of their time, place and extent.

Saying that Tskhinvali was ready for challenges from Georgia, he added that all law enforcement structures had been placed on high alert until July 17, when the G8 summit ends and a session of a joint control commission for the conflict resolution, which comprises representatives from Russia, Georgia and South Ossetia, will start its work.

Giorgi Khaindrava, Georgia's state minister for conflict resolution, confirmed that the session of the commission in Tbilisi had been put off from July 12-13 until July 17 with the consent of Chochiyev, a co-chairman of the commission.

Russia's Federal Security Service said earlier Wednesday it had received a warning that Georgia had been planning a provocation in South Ossetia during the G8 summit.

"The Georgian leadership has prepared a plan to kill 15-20 Georgian nationals in South Ossetia," a source told the FSB by phone. "They are also planning to somehow plant two bodies of Russian peacekeepers or soldiers at the site to incriminate them in the murders."

The source, who claims he received information from circles close to the Georgian leadership, said Georgia was planning to use the provocation to launch a military operation in South Ossetia while hoping that the Russian president would not opt for a harsh response during the summit.

In response to the announcement made by the FSB, Konstantin Kemularia, the head of Georgia's Security Council, said Russia's accusations were groundless.

"Russia does not have evidence pointing to a planned provocation on the part of Georgia," he said. "It is not the first time we hear rumors about Georgia allegedly preparing military provocations during the G8 summit."

He also said Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili reiterated Tuesday that his country was not planning to deploy additional troops in the conflict zone in South Ossetia.

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