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Russia becomes officially involved in war against Georgia

08.08.2008
 
Russia becomes officially involved in war against Georgia

The UN Security Council gathered for a special session August 8, after 9 a.m. The meeting, held on Russia’s initiative is devoted to the military conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia. Russia’s constant representative at the UN, Vitaly Churkin, urged the UN Security Council to immediately interfere in the situation with South Ossetia to stop violence.

The Georgian aviation attacked South Ossetia on Friday morning. Five Su-25 fighter jets dropped bombs in the area of the town of S.Ossetian town of Tkverneti. The jets also bombed a humanitarian aid column. The President of North Ossetia, Teimuraz Mamsurov, who was traveling to South Ossetia in the column personally confirmed that the jet fighters attacked the column.

The N.Ossetian president was not injured in the attack,

The peacemaking headquarters in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, said that Georgia attacked the country at dawn. Three Russian peacemakers were wounded in the attack.

The intensive fighting began just hours after Georgia's president declared a unilateral cease-fire, officials on both sides said.

S.Ossetian officials said that 15 civilians had been killed in the fighting overnight.

Georgian units had almost surrounded Tskhinvali and had taken five villages in the region, Georgian State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili told a Tibilisi television station.

If Georgian claims of seizing ground are true, the assault would mark a major expansion of Georgia's foothold in the breakaway region. Yakobashvili said Georgian officials were doing everything they could to avoid casualties and the destruction of property.

Boris Chochiyev, a minister in the South Ossetian government, said that Georgian troops shelled the center of Tskhinvali with truck-launched missiles.

 

Chochiyev asked the Russian government to defend South Ossetians, most of whom hold Russian passports, from what he called aggression.

The Russian government blamed Georgia for the fighting, and called on Tbilisi to commit itself to peaceful resolution of the conflict.

"The Georgian leadership should come to their senses and return to civilized ways of resolving difficult issues," Russian Foreign Ministry Boris Malakhov said Friday, according to ITAR-Tass.

Yakobashvili said Friday Georgia was ready to negotiate, but claimed the South Ossetian officials were dragging their feet in starting talks.

A week of clashes and escalating tension in South Ossetia has raised fears of an all-out war that could draw in Russia, which has close ties with South Ossetia's separatist leadership.

At the request of Russia, the United Nations Security Council began meeting in emergency session starting at 11 p.m. Thursday (0300 GMT Friday) in New York.

Council members held private talks on a Russian-drafted statement that would have the council expressing "serious concern at the escalation of violence" and calling on all sides "to cease bloodshed without delay and to renounce the use of force."

On Thursday evening, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili had announced a unilateral cease-fire in a television broadcast in which he also urged South Ossetian separatist leaders to enter talks on resolving the conflict.

Saakashvili also proposed that Russia could become a guarantor of wide-ranging autonomy for South Ossetia, if the region remains under Georgian control. Georgian officials have alleged that Moscow is provoking the recent clashes.

South Ossetia's separatist President Eduard Kokoity blamed Georgia and called Saakashvili's cease-fire call a "despicable and treacherous" ruse, Interfax reported.

The Russian Foreign Ministry laid in with similar criticism, saying "the actions by Georgia in South Ossetia bear witness to the fact that the leadership of that country can no longer be trusted," the agency said.

Heavy shelling overnight Wednesday in South Ossetia killed at least one person and wounded 22, officials said Thursday. It was some of the most severe fighting reported since Aug. 1, when six people were reported killed around Tskhinvali.

The South Ossetian government said Tskhinvali and nearby areas came under heavy artillery and mortar shelling from Georgian-controlled territory early Thursday, wounding 18 people. But Georgian authorities said they were forced to retaliate when South Ossetian separatist forces started firing on Georgian troops in the area.

One Georgian soldier was killed and four were wounded, Georgian national security council head Alexander Lomaya was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Russia has soldiers in South Ossetia as peacekeeping forces, but Georgia alleges they back the separatists. Russia also was criticized by the West as provoking tensions by sending warplanes over South Ossetia last month.

Most of South Ossetia, which is roughly 1.5 times the size of Luxembourg, has been under the control of an internationally unrecognized separatist government since a war there ended in 1992. Georgian forces hold several swaths of it.

Russia also has close ties with a separatist regime in Abkhazia, another Georgian breakaway province. An open war in either region could prompt Russia to send in more forces under the claim of protecting its citizens.

Relations between Georgia and Russia worsened notably this year as Georgia pushed to join NATO and Russia dispatched additional peacekeeper forces to Abkhazia.

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