Russian forces enter South Ossetia

Moscow has sent troops to Georgia’s breakaway republic to aid peacekeepers stationed there.

Russia's Defense Ministry says the fighting in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali continues. According to peacekeepers, the city is in ruins. South Ossetia is calling Georgia's attacks ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic purges’.

According to the president of the self-proclaimed republic, Eduard Kokoity, hundreds of civilians have been killed. He also said the South Ossetian forces are pushing Georgian troops out of the capital.

Georgia launched a major military offensive against South Ossetia on Friday in a bid to regain control of its breakaway province. Heavy artillery pounded the capital Tskhinvali for hours, reportedly reducing much of the city to rubble.

South Ossetia then appealed to Moscow for help.

More than 10 Russian peacekeepers have been killed and about 30 wounded in clashes. Russia’s Defence Ministry said.

The Ministry has also been quoted as saying Georgian troops have killed civilians captured during fighting.

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered Russia's emergencies ministry to supply humanitarian aid to those injured in South Ossetia. He said Russia will protect its citizens in South Ossetia at all costs, as tension between Georgia and its breakaway region broke into heavy violence.

"It is my duty as president of the Russian Federation to protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, wherever they may be," Medvedev said on Friday.

The actions of the Georgian side led to deaths - among them are Russian peacekeepers. The situation reached the point that Georgian peacekeepers have been shooting at Russian peacekeepers. Now women, children and old people are dying in South Ossetia - most of them are citizens of the Russian Federation. According to the constitution, I, as the President of the Russian Federation, must protect lives and the dignity of Russian citizens wherever they are. Those responsible for the deaths of our citizens will be punished.

Russia's President Dmitry MedvedevRussian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, currently on a visit to Beijing for the start of the Olympics, warned that Georgia's actions would meet a "response."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has claimed there is evidence of ethnic cleansing in villages in South Ossetia.

Lavrov also said the latest developments in South Ossetia cast doubts over Georgia's status as a responsible member of the international community.

He called last night’s events and "an aggression".

"Georgian peacekeepers, who were part of the same contingent with the Russian peacekeepers were firing at their comrades. It was absolutely unacceptable to see residential quarters shelled, to see a humanitarian convoy that was trying to reach the people in need bombed from the air. And many villages, including those outside the zone of conflict, are being attacked by the Georgian troops using artillery, tanks," he said.

[Source: Russia Today, Moscow, 08Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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