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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Georgian jets and troops pound separatists

This is from thenational(Dubai)

I have seen other sources that put the casualties in the South Ossetian capital as much higher than this article reports. The separatist side had already declared a ceasefire and talks were to take place. It seems that instead Georgia decided to retake the capital first. Perhaps it was a move to put Georgia in a more powerful bargaining position as Saakashvilli is now calling for a ceasefire and negotiations. It is doubtful that Russia will have any part of this until it has re-establish at least control of the capital for the separatists.
Not only South Ossetia is a problem for Georgia but so is Abazia. Both breakaway provinces have pointed to Kosovo as a paradigm case of separation without agreement of the state (Serbia) from which Kosovo separated. Of course this time you have an ally of the US with troops in Iraq and trying to hard to join NATO. Georgia already receives lots of military aid from the U.S. This has the makings of a new cold war that might not be so cold.


Georgian jets and troops pound separatists
Last Updated: August 08. 2008 6:45PM UAE / August 8. 2008 2:45PM GMT

MEGVREKISI, Georgia // Fighting raged in and around the capital of Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region today as Georgian troops, backed by warplanes, pounded separatist forces in a bid to retake control of the territory.Georgia said three Russian jets had entered Georgian airspace and dropped bombs on two places just south of the territory, which has been outside central government control since the 1990s. There was no immediate comment from Moscow.The pro-western Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, said his forces had “freed” the greater part of Tskhinvali, capital of the region, and accused Russia of conducting a “large-scale” operation against Georgia. He ordered a full-scale mobilisation of military reservists.
The Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin said Russia would respond to aggressive Georgian action.“The Georgian leadership has resorted to very aggressive actions in South Ossetia, in fact it started warfare using heavy armour and artillery,” Mr Putin said in Beijing, where he is on a visit.“There are casualties, including among Russian peacekeepers,” he added, speaking at a meeting with the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. “This is very sad and this will incur a response.” He did not give details.
Russian news agency Interfax said Georgian troops had entered Tskhinvali after intense battles overnight.The Georgian interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said Georgian forces had also fought two convoys of “mercenaries” that had entered South Ossetia from Russia, heading for Tskhinvali.The government and separatists envoys had been due to meet in Tskhinvali for Russian-mediated peace talks on Friday. Many houses were ablaze.
Russian peacekeepers said three of their men had been wounded and their headquarters damaged during shelling of the town, Interfax news agency reported.The Georgian prime minister Lado Gurgenidze said the military operation would continue until a “durable peace” had been reached.Russia, main backer of the separatists, accused Georgia of treachery and urged the world community to avert “massive bloodshed.”
The Kremlin said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was holding consultations with aides on “restoring peace in South Ossetia and defending the local civilian population within the peacekeeping mandate we have”.Russian news agencies said he later summoned his top security advisers.At an emergency session of the United Nations on Thursday night, Russia failed to push through a statement that would have called on both sides to stop fighting immediately.
Council diplomats said a phrase calling on all sides to “renounce the use of force” had been unacceptable to the Georgians, backed by the United States and the Europeans.The crisis has fuelled fears of full-blown war in the region, which is emerging as a vital energy transit route and where Russia and the West are vying for influence.Georgia said the operation, launched after a week of clashes between separatists and the troops in which nearly 20 people were killed, was aimed at ending South Ossetia’s effective independence, won in a 1991-92 war.
“We are forced to restore constitutional order in the whole region,” the commander of Georgian peacekeepers in South Ossetia, Mamuka Kurashvili, told Georgian television.In Tskhinvali, thousands of people took refuge from the shelling in cellars.A Vesti-24 correspondent in Tskhinvali, Andrei Chistyakov, said at least 15 civilians had been killed in the town. “These are the people whose bodies were seen in their yards and in the streets,” he said by telephone.
Mr Saakashvili, who wants to take his small Caucasus nation into Nato, has made it a priority to win back control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another rebel region on the Black Sea.The issue has bedevilled Georgia’s relations with Russia, which is angered by Tbilisi’s moves towards the Western fold and its pursuit of Nato membership.On Thursday, Mr Saakashvili announced a unilateral truce and gave a go-ahead for peace talks. But just few hours later Tbilisi accused separatists of shelling Georgian-populated villages and set troops in motion.
Georgian National Security Council secretary Kakha Lomaia told Reuters that several Soviet-designed Su-25 planes took part in a strike on the village of Tkverneti.“These planes can be used again if the need arises to strike foreign mercenaries arriving in the region,” he said. “But they will not be used in Tskhinvali.”*Reuters

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