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Russian troops on alert as Georgia tensions rise

By Vladimir Isachenkov
Associated Press / August 5, 2009

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MOSCOW - Russian troops in the breakaway province of South Ossetia have been put on increased combat readiness amid rising tensions on the de facto border with Georgia, Kremlin officials said yesterday.

Andrei Nesterenko, the spokesman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said the move was a response to Georgian provocations.

“The most important thing now is to prevent escalation and not to allow skirmishes to grow into bigger clashes,’’ Nesterenko said.

The situation near South Ossetia has become increasingly tense as the first anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war approaches Friday, with Georgia and Russia blaming each other for provocations and intentions to resume fighting.

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed the “lessons of last year’s Georgian crisis’’ in a telephone conversation late yesterday, the Kremlin said.

Obama said during a recent summit in Moscow that Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected.

The 2008 conflict erupted after escalating exchanges of fire between Georgia and Moscow-backed South Ossetian forces.