Russia’s ambassador to NATO warns alliance to keep out of South Ossetia

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, stated Saturday that Russia was not at war with Georgia. The official said that there would be no cease-fire until Georgia withdrew its troops from South Ossetia.

Rogozin urged NATO not to interfere in the conflict and added that Russia entered S.Ossetia to protect its nationals.

"We do not consider ourselves in a state of war. We are just (keeping) the peace and helping our peacekeepers and the civilian population," he said.

Dmitry Rogozin added that Georgia’s President cannot even imagine what it would be like to be at war with Russia.

Rogozin, who said he briefed NATO military officials, said Russian troops had wrested control of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian provincial capital.

"We do not conduct any military operation (against) Georgia outside the conflict zone" in South Ossetia, Rogozin told reporters at his residence in Brussels.

Georgia hopes to join the NATO alliance. Rogozin said Moscow expected the organization to keep a low profile and accused Saakashvili of trying to "internationalize" the conflict

"We take the view that NATO is not involved in the conflict," he told reporters.

He said a cease-fire - as proposed by Saakashvili - can only happen if Georgian forces stop shooting and return to positions they held before Friday's offensive.

Rogozin said if Georgia does not meet the conditions "no serious politician or military leader" could consider sending peacekeepers to South Ossetia.

Russia sent hundreds of tanks and troops into the province and bombed Georgian towns Saturday in a major escalation of the conflict.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Europe's leading security organization, said it plans to meet with Georgian and Russian leaders.

"It looks very strongly like the war is escalating both in the region of South Ossetia and now also in Abkhazia," Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, who chairs the group, told reporters in Helsinki on Saturday.

South Ossetia won de facto independence after a civil war in 1992 and Russia has granted citizenship to most of its residents.

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