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Separatists seize 13 villages, Georgia says

  • Story Highlights
  • Georgia says Russian-backed militia seized control of villages, power plant
  • Interior Ministry says villages, power plant are in separatist territory of Abkhazia
  • Abkhazian fighters forced Georgians out of province's last stronghold this week
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(CNN) -- Russian-backed militia members in western Georgia have seized control of 13 villages and a power plant in the region, the Georgian government said Saturday.

Georgia's Interior Ministry said the villages and the plant, all previously controlled by Georgia, fall within the borders of the separatist territory of Abkhazia.

Officials at the Foreign Ministry initially suspected that the move was a Russian attempt to expand Abkhazia's border with Georgia, but they backed off the statement later, saying the border remained intact.

The claim could not be immediately confirmed by CNN.

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Abkhazian fighters, supported by Russia, forced Georgians out of their last stronghold in the province this week.

Fighting has raged over the past week between Russia and Georgia over two separatist regions: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Although violence has died down in the regions, Georgia has accused the Russian army of violating a new cease-fire agreement by destroying a key railway bridge Saturday and starting "massive" fires in the scenic Borjomi Gorge.

A senior Russian military official said the bridges "were the objects we tackled" during last week's fighting with Georgia. He said the allegations of Russia still attacking Georgia are "a hoax."

"Our work is devoted to peacekeeping problems," said Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of staff of Russian Armed Forces.

Russian forces remained within 25 miles (40 kilometers) of Georgia's capital city, Tbilisi, on Saturday and were still on the western front around the breakaway province of Abkhazia, CNN's Frederik Pleitgen said.

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