EU observers monitoring a ceasefire between Russia and Georgia entered a Russian-controlled buffer zone around South Ossetia on the first day of their peacekeeping mission.
EU monitors entered a Russian-controlled buffer zone around
The 200-plus EU monitors began deploying under a French-brokered ceasefire deal that should see
The Russian military and EU officials had said earlier there was still no agreement on full access to the zones. But on Wednesday, three EU patrols entered the
A smooth deployment is critical to the success of the peace deal and will test
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said
"Russian peacekeepers will be withdrawn from
"The process has begun," EU mission head Hansjoerg Haber told reporters at the end of the day. "We are entering the adjacent areas and this is the beginning of the takeover."
A Reuters reporter travelling with one of the patrols, led by French civilian monitors, entered the buffer zone in the
After lengthy discussions with Russian commanders, a second patrol entered at Karaleti, in an area where human rights groups say paramilitaries have been looting and attacking ethnic Georgian villages since the war, forcing thousands to flee.
NO ACCESS TO REBEL REGIONS
The EU mission said it hoped to coordinate a "step-by-step" withdrawal of Russian forces and simultaneous return of Georgian police to the buffer zones to avoid a security vacuum that could be exploited by roaming militias.
Haber said contacts with Russian forces should ensure an orderly withdrawal that would allow
"It is once more confirmation that when the international community is unified and resolute, the Russians are compelled to comply," said National Security Council Secretary Kakha Lomaia.
Russia has said the EU monitors will not be allowed inside South Ossetia or a second breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, both of which it has recognised since the conflict as independent states.
As the monitors set off, access remained an issue, with Haber saying assurances offered by
He told reporters in the morning Russian forces had given "all sorts of reasons" for initially denying access.
Skirmishes between separatists and Georgian troops erupted in war in August when
The West has condemned
In Tbilisi, the Georgian police displayed what they said was a Russian unmanned reconnaissance drone that fell out of the sky on Tuesday just outside South Ossetia. "This is our territory, we control it," said spokesman Shota Utiashvili.
A Russian military spokesman said he could not confirm the Georgian claim, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Date created : 2008-10-01