Five more Georgians detained near South Ossetia: officials
European Union ceasefire monitors in Georgia have expressed concern over the detentions, fearing they could increase tensions in the volatile area.
South Ossetia's rebel government said in a statement that the five Georgian citizens had been detained by Russian border guards on Monday "for trying to illegally enter the territory of South Ossetia."
It said a court would decide Thursday on whether to charge the men.
Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili confirmed the men had been detained after crossing into South Ossetian-controlled territory. He said the men had crossed the de facto border in order to assist relatives with farm work and that Georgia hoped they would be released without charge.
Georgian, South Ossetian, Russian and European officials meanwhile held talks Wednesday on the 16 Georgian citizens detained by Russian border guards on Sunday.
Georgia insists its citizens were seized from within Georgian-controlled territory while collecting firewood, while South Ossetia says they were detained after crossing the de facto border.
The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia said that all sides had agreed that some of the individuals had crossed the de facto border, but by less than 100 metres (yards) and unintentionally.
"EUMM considers that the detainees should be released at the earliest possible opportunity," the mission said in a statement.
Utiashvili said that after the talks South Ossetia "promised to release our citizens sometime soon" but provided no information on when they might be set free.
Georgia's foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that it had sent a note to Russia that "expresses (Georgia's) strong protest over the actions of the Russian side and categorically demands the immediate release of the detained citizens of Georgia."
Tensions remain high near South Ossetia following last year's Georgia-Russia war over the breakaway region.
The five-day war in August 2008 saw Russian troops and tanks pour into Georgia to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake control of South Ossetia, which had received extensive Russian backing for years.
Days after the conflict, Russia recognised South Ossetia and another rebel Georgian region, Abkhazia, as independent, a move that has so far been followed by only Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Thousands of Russian troops and border guards are now stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Moscow says are needed to protect the regions against Georgian aggression but which Tbilisi calls an illegal occupation.
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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 10/28/2009 13:11:49
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