Shots fired near a Russian checkpoint outside South Ossetia killed a Georgian police officer Wednesday, and police accused Russian forces of hindering their investigation.
The shooting on the tense line where Georgian authority ends underscored the threat of violence, even as Russia begins to withdraw forces still deep in Georgia a month after a war.
In another show of defiance toward the U.S., which has backed Georgia, Russia announced that two Russian strategic Tu-160 bombers landed in Venezuela on a training mission Wednesday.
Russia's Defense Ministry said the planes will conduct training flights over neutral waters for a few days before heading back to Russia.
Russia had been angered that U.S. warships brought humanitarian aid to Georgia via the Black Sea, which Russia considers its sphere of influence. The flights appeared to be a direct challenge to the U.S. in its own hemisphere.
Automatic weapons fire “from the direction” of the Russian roadblock at Karaleti, on a main road to South Ossetia, hit the policeman at a Georgian checkpoint half a mile away, Interior Ministry official Shota Utiashvili said.
The Georgians did not return fire, and the policeman later died at a hospital, he said.
Russia has recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent nations. Georgian authorities say about 2,000 Russian troops are posted at 24 positions ringing the two regions and elsewhere in Georgia, a humiliating occupation.
At the World Court Wednesday, Russia asked judges to dismiss Georgia's request for urgent intervention, saying Russian troops are withdrawing from Georgian territory and thousands of refugees are returning to abandoned homes in the breakaway provinces.