Update: Russian delegation stuck in Georgia in diplomatic papers spat

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MOSCOW, July 14 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian delegation detained by Georgia's military police near Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, cannot leave the area because Georgia's authorities refuse to hand over identification papers, a member of delegation said Friday.

The Russian Embassy in Tbilisi earlier said that a car with the embassy's license plates registered in Tbilisi, carrying the Russian Foreign Ministry's ambassador at large, Russia's Joint Control Commission co-chairman Yury Popov, and land forces deputy commander Lieutenant General Valery Yevnevich, had been stopped by Georgia's military police near the town of Gori, 25 km (about 16 miles) from Tskhinvali for a document check.

The military police then attempted to examine the diplomatic car in violation of the Vienna convention, the embassy said.

"My documents, which I gave to Georgia's military police for inspection, have not been returned, and our delegation cannot leave the area," Yevnevich said, adding that he was not given the explanation why his documents had been seized.

Commenting on the incident, Georgia's Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said the Russian Embassy had failed to warn Georgia about any visit of a Russian delegation to South Ossetia.

"Our militaries have agreed that the Georgian police have to be warned in advance about visits to the [Georgian-Ossetian] conflict zone," the minister said. "This was not done."

But the Russian Embassy said it had promptly notified the Georgian Foreign Ministry about the visit.

Georgia's State Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava said Friday the delegation had been barred entry to Tskhinvali for safety reasons.

"They [the delegation] were not detained, as Russian media have reported, but simply stopped for the sake of their personal safety," the minister said.

"Georgian police securing the entrance to the conflict zone did not let them through because a terrorist attack occurred in Tskhinvali this morning," he said.

One person was killed and four wounded in an explosion Friday morning near the house of a local parliamentarian in Tsnhinvali.

Irina Gagloyeva, the head of the press committee for South Ossetian government, called the incident an assassination attempt on South Ossetian parliamentary deputy and special forces battalion commander Baly Bestalty, organized by the Georgian authorities.

She also said law enforcement units of the self-proclaimed republic had been put on high alert due to high tensions in the region.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said Wednesday that it had received a warning that Georgia was planning a provocation in South Ossetia, timed to coincide with this weekend's Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday he hoped the reports were unsubstantiated, while Georgian Security Council head Konstantin Kemularia called the accusations groundless.

Russia's first deputy foreign minister warned against moves that could intensify the conflict in Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia at a meeting with the Georgian ambassador to Russia.

At the meeting with Irakli Chubinishvili on Thursday, Andrei Denisov highlighted "the need to refrain from steps and actions that could provoke an escalation of the conflict in the region."

Marat Kulakhmetov, commander of the joint peacekeeping forces in the region, said Friday that the blast was aimed at further destabilizing the situation in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone. He reiterated that Russia's peacekeepers in the region had been put on high alert.

Russia's defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, said on June 13 that Moscow would try to ensure that its peacekeepers in South Ossetia were not threatened.

Following reports on "terrorist attacks" in Tskhinvali, Yury Popov, Russia's special envoy to Georgia and a co-chairman of the Joint Control Commission seeking to resolve the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict, said that increased tensions in the region called for an emergency meeting of the commission.

"It is obvious that a scheduled meeting of the JCC in Tbilisi will not take place on July 17-18. But we will probably have to convene an extraordinary meeting in Moscow because the situation is urgent," said Popov, who is also a member of the delegation involved in today's incident.

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