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By Matt Robinson and Stephanie Nebehay
TBILISI/GENEVA (Reuters) - Georgia on Wednesday accused Russia of trying to escalate tensions by detaining five Georgian citizens off the Black Sea coast near the breakaway Russian-backed region of Abkhazia.
A Russian foreign ministry spokesman confirmed that Russian border guards detained five people on Tuesday for fishing illegally, but said they were all residents of Abkhazia, which Moscow recognises as an independent country.
The border guards acted "in full accordance with Russian-Abkhazian agreements," under which Russian coastguard ships patrol the waters off Abkhazia, the spokesman said.
There have been a number of brief detentions of Georgians in recent weeks, mainly in rebel South Ossetia, the focus of last year's five-day war between Georgia and Russia.
Georgia's foreign ministry said Russian forces had "kidnapped" five of its citizens in Georgian territorial waters.
"The Kremlin employs such methods in order to escalate the situation in the territories adjacent to Georgia's occupied regions and provide all preconditions to push the conflict into a 'hot' stage," the ministry said.
Russia said the incident took place 18 km (11 miles) south of Ochamchira in Abkhaz waters.
Officials of Russia, Georgia and the two breakaway regions met in Geneva on Wednesday for an eighth round of security discussions mediated by the United Nations, European Union and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In a statement released after those talks, the co-chairs said that while the broad security situation in the region was "relatively stable," they were concerned about the detentions that have escalated tension between the neighbours.
DETENTION OF JUVENILES
Twenty-one Georgian villagers were detained in South Ossetia last month and accused of illegally crossing the border to search for wood. They were all released. The poorly defined boundary line runs through agricultural land.
South Ossetian authorities are holding four Georgian teenagers who were arrested last week in the breakaway capital Tskhinvali for supposedly carrying grenades and explosives.
Georgian First Deputy Foreign Minister Giorgi Bokeria said the "detention of juveniles on absurd charges of potential terrorist activity -- 14- and 15-year-olds" was the most alarming in an increasing spate of arrests.
"This is a huge problem and we will do our best to highlight this issue at all forums. This is the responsibility of Russia as an occupying power," Bokeria told journalists in Geneva.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said there was no reason for serious concern over the case. "The competent Ossetian authorities are investigating if there was any criminal intent, and if they find there was none then it would seem likely that the youths will be released," he told reporters.
Russian forces have controlled the de facto borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia since August last year, when Moscow crushed a Georgian assault on South Ossetia and subsequently recognised both territories as independent states. Russian and Georgian delegations will meet again in Geneva on January 28.
(Reporting and writing by Matt Robinson and Conor Humphries; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Robert Evans and Laura MacInnis in Geneva; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Reuters