Georgia said on Saturday hundreds of Russian soldiers had moved into a disputed Georgian village near breakaway South Ossetia and had pushed out Georgian police, fuelling fears of confrontation.A regional police official and an interior ministry spokesman said between 500 and 600 Russian soldiers were in the village of Perevi, close to the de facto border with the region.Russian forces pulled back in October from a buffer zone adjacent to South Ossetia after a five-day war in August, but kept soldiers in Perevi, which sits on the Georgian side of the de facto border.Russian troops had briefly pulled out of the village on Friday, only to return in small numbers by nightfall.Georgia has condemned the Russian presence in Perevi as a violation of the ceasefire brokered after the war, when Russia intervened in its former Soviet neighbor to halt a Georgian military assault on pro-Russian South Ossetia.European Union ceasefire monitors, who took credit on Friday for the Russian withdrawal, confirmed Russian forces were in the village on Saturday, but could not say how many.Georgian police who moved in on Friday had pulled back again under a Russian ultimatum, police said. "The Russians kicked the police out of Perevi this morning," Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said. "They staged a show with paratroopers."News that the Russian troops had moved 3 km (1.8 miles) east on Friday across the boundary had eased fears of confrontation. Some of the 1,100 villagers had already left.
The village sits on a small mountain road entering South Ossetia from the west.South Ossetia claims the village as its own. The EU monitors say it clearly lies outside South Ossetia's de facto borders. The monitors said Friday's pullback followed discussions with the Russian foreign ministry and military.Utiashvili said a delegation of European diplomats visiting the area on Saturday was barred from entering the village.Russia has recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states backed by Russian military protection. The two regions threw off Tbilisi's rule in the early 1990s.Russia said it intervened in Georgia to save civilians from a Georgian military bid to retake South Ossetia after months of skirmishes and allegations of Russian provocation. The West condemned Moscow's response as disproportionate.