TBILISI, Georgia – Georgia accused Russia on Monday of trying to take more territory outside the breakaway province of South Ossetia as tensions rose before the first anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war last summer.
Georgia's Foreign Ministry said Russian troops entered the village of Kveshi near South Ossetia on Sunday and erected posts marking a new border.
"It's very alarming that as the first anniversary of the Russian aggression against Georgia comes close, Russia and its puppets are deliberately inciting tensions and behave defiantly," the ministry said in a statement.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov would not immediately comment on the situation. However, Russian border guards on Monday removed the border posts they had erected several hundred meters (yards) away from the administrative border of South Ossetia, Georgia's interior ministry said.
Steve Bird, a spokesman for the European Union's observer mission in Georgia, said monitors were following the situation closely but Russian border guards had assured them they had no plan to move their checkpoint to the new marked-off area.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin discussed the situation around South Ossetia in a phone call Sunday with William Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
"It was emphasized that it's necessary to prevent military provocations which could further destabilize the already explosive situation on the border," the ministry said in a statement.
The situation near South Ossetia has become increasingly tense as the first anniversary of the war approaches, with Georgia and Russia blaming each other for provocations and intentions to resume fighting.
South Ossetia's separatist authorities have accused Georgia of firing gunshots and mortar rounds near the provincial capital of Tskhinvali on two separate occasions last week. Georgian authorities dismissed the allegations and accused separatists of firing at Georgians. No one was hurt.
The Russian Defense Ministry warned Georgia on Saturday that it "reserves the right to use all available forces and means to protect the citizens of South Ossetia and Russian servicemen" in case of further Georgian "provocations."
Georgian officials said that statement reflected Moscow's hostile intentions.
Temuri Yakobashvili, a Georgian Cabinet minister, reaffirmed Monday that Georgia has no intention to use force. "There is no military solution to the conflict," he told the AP.
The August war began when Georgia launched an offensive to regain control over Moscow-backed South Ossetia. Russia quickly sent in thousands of troops and tanks that routed the Georgian military and drove deep into Georgia. A truce negotiated by the European Union ended five days of fierce fighting.
Georgian authorities claimed they had to launch an artillery barrage on Tskhinvali because Russia had troops into South Ossetia hours earlier. Moscow denied the claim and said it acted to protect its peacekeepers and civilians there.
After the war, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another separatist region in Georgia, as independent nations and permanently deployed thousands of troops there.
The EU monitors are the only remaining international ones in Georgia, but they are blocked from traveling inside South Ossetia and Abkhazia.