Russian troops near South Ossetia capital, 10 peacekeepers killed

Russian troops are approaching the capital of breakaway South Ossetia to help peacekeepers amid a spiraling conflict with Georgia, which tried to regain control of the region Friday, a top military spokesman said.

Colonel Igor Konashenkov, an aide to the Russian Ground Forces commander, said around 10 Russian peacekeepers have been killed and 30 wounded in the province since Georgia launched a major offensive overnight using tanks, combat aircraft, heavy artillery and infantry.

"Units of the 58th Army have set off to help Russian peacekeepers, they are approaching Tskhinvali," Konashenkov said.

He said Georgian tanks are firing at the Russian peacekeeping headquarters.

"Georgian troops are shooting Russian peacekeepers and civilians at observation posts they have seized," he said. "Vicious fighting is going on in the area of Tskhinvali, where Georgian tanks are firing at the peacekeepers' headquarters and base from close by."

Earlier reports confirmed by the Russian Defense Ministry said a convoy of Russian tanks and armored vehicles had entered Tskhinvali. Eyewitnesses said some 100 Russian tanks and armored vehicles crossed the Russian border.

Senior Russian lawmakers and officials earlier urged a military operation to end the violence as the Russian-led peacekeeping contingent was insufficient to ensure peace in the region.

And Russia's president and premier vowed retaliation for what they called "the Georgian aggression" and punishment for those who kill Russian nationals in South Ossetia.

[Source: Russian Information Agency Novosti, Vladikavkaz, 08Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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