The European Union has begun deploying civilian monitors in Georgia, despite earlier threats by Russia to bar them from buffer zones near Georgia's two breakaway regions.

The 200-plus-member peacekeeping team deployed Wednesday, entering the Russian-declared zone around South Ossetia at several points.  Russia has agreed to withdraw all its forces from Ossetia, as well as those near a second breakaway territory, Abkhazia, by October 10.

Moscow recognized the two territories as independent states last month, just weeks after launching a military offensive in South Ossetia aimed at driving Georgian forces from the territory.

The Russian recognition angered the United States and European Union.

Tuesday, Russia said it would bar the monitors from entering the buffer zones.  Witnesses later said monitors were allowed into the Ossetia zone after being stopped briefly at a Russian checkpoint.

Russian sent armor and thousands of troops into Georgia August 7, after Georgian troops tried to retake control of South Ossetia by force.

In another development, the human rights group Amnesty International says unexploded shells, looting, and ethnically-motivated violence are preventing ethnic Georgians from returning to their homes in South Ossetia.

Amnesty is calling on Russian, Georgian, and South Ossetian authorities to guarantee the safety of displaced people trying to return home.  It also asks all sides to disclose information about munitions used in the fighting so unexploded bombs can be cleared.