Shots fired as leaders near South Ossetia
Gunfire broke out yesterday on the South Ossetian de facto border after a convoy carrying the Georgian and Polish presidents approached, forcing them to turn back, officials said.
Georgia and Russia, which fought a five-day war in August, accused each other of provocation over the incident.
"Frankly I didn't expect Russians to open fire. I thought they clearly saw that this was an official cortege, this was a high delegation," Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said, speaking in English in comments broadcast on BBC World Service radio.
"Clearly it was intended as a provocation, certainly I would never intend to put the life of the president of Poland in danger, that was none of my intention but the reality is that you know you are dealing with unpredictable people," he added.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is accompanying President Dmitry Medvedev on a trip to Latin America, shrugged off Georgian accusations.
"This is a clear provocation," he told reporters in the Peruvian capital Lima. "It is not the first time they are doing so. They are organising the provocation and then blame the Russian side."
"Inviting the (Polish) president to Tbilisi and then taking him for a car ride to a different country - isn't that a provocation?" he added.
Lavrov stopped short of accusing Tbilisi of setting up the shooting incident, but denied any Russian responsibility.
"There was no shooting from either the Russian or the Ossetian side," he said.
A spokeswoman for Saakashvili said that Russian troops manning a checkpoint on the de facto border opened fire when the convoy approached.
The spokeswoman was not present at the scene, just south of the town of Akhalgori. A witness travelling with Saakashvili told Reuters that uniformed men who appeared to be South Ossetians fired shots into the air when officials began getting out of their cars.
Both Russia and South Ossetia strongly denied involvement.
Shaky television pictures were inconclusive. Automatic gunfire could be heard but it was unclear where from. No one was hurt and the convoy turned back.
"We heard machine-gun volleys about 30 metres from where I was," the Polish PAP news agency quoted Polish President Lech Kaczynski as saying.
He later told a news conference: "I appeal from this spot to my friends in the European Union to draw the proper conclusions from this event before it is too late ... I do not regret that trip along that dark road."
Russia intervened in Georgia in August to repel a Georgian bid to retake breakaway South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists. Russian forces have pulled back from buffer zones into South Ossetian territory and a 225-strong EU mission is monitoring a fragile ceasefire.
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
'Jihadi John': Isis executioner Mohammed Emwazi wanted to wage jihad in Somalia until his friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...
£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing company in Belvedere ...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...