Russia frees 12 Georgians, but EU mulls sanctions

RUKHI, Georgia (AP) -- Russian forces have turned over a dozen Georgian soldiers on the border of one of the separatist provinces that are under Russian control.

The release of the 12 soldiers is being seen as a small conciliatory gesture from Russia amid increasing tensions in the weeks following the end of the fighting between the two countries. The soldiers appear to be unharmed, and some were smiling.

Georgia's foreign minister says Russian troops and allied militias have completed ethnic cleansing in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia (oh-SET'-yuh). She says similar operations are ongoing in a Russian-occupied buffer zone, with Russians expelling Georgians from the area, destroying their homes and looting their property. Russia denies the claims.

Meanwhile, France says the European Union is considering imposing sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Georgia.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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