EU monitors who have begun patrolling inside a buffer zone around Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region, say their first operation has gone “smoothly”. They are there as part of a ceasefire deal under which Russian troops must pull out of undisputed Georgian territory within 10 days.
The Russian military and EU officials had said earlier there was still no agreement on full access to the zones. But today at least two EU patrols entered the area through Russian checkpoints.
The sides remain divided over the mission’s right to enter South Ossetia itself and other breakaway region of Abhkazia.
The monitors want to coordinate the withdrawal of the Russians from the zone and a simultaneous return of Georgian police, to avoid a security vacuum which could be exploited by roaming militias.
But for the moment, in the words of one EU officer, things are going “smoothly”. “The Russian major at the checkpoint said the situation is quiet and calm. There’s nothing special to report. No mines, only some unexploded ordinance,” he said.
Russia sent troops across the border in August after Georgian forces attempted to retake South Ossetia. Moscow’s response provoked a diplomatic crisis with the EU.