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Smooth start to E.U. patrols in Georgia

European Union monitors began patrolling Georgian territory Wednesday.

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European Union monitors began patrolling Georgian territory Wednesday, and Russian troops allowed some of them into a buffer zone around the breakaway region of South Ossetia despite earlier warnings from Moscow they would be blocked.

Russian peacekeepers had said Tuesday that none of the 300 observers would be immediately permitted to be in the buffer zone, raising concerns that Moscow was stalling on withdrawing its troops from Georgia as it promised to do after its war with Georgia in August.

But EU monitors were quickly allowed to pass through Russian checkpoints Wednesday near two Georgian villages on the perimeter of Moscow's so-called "security zone."

"The situation is very calm," said Ivan Kukushkin, a smiling Russian officer in charge of the checkpoint near Kvenatkotsa.

The spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana confirmed that the deployment of the monitors was going smoothly and that they have been able to go "wherever they planned to go."

Russia and Georgia agreed to the EU observer mission as part of an updated cease-fire plan following the war, which ended with Russian and separatist forces in control of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Russians also dug into other territory in Georgia.


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