Russian tanks head for South Ossetia

Russian tanks are moving towards the capital of South Ossetia, which has reportedly been completely destroyed by Georgian artillery fire.

South Ossetia appealed to Moscow for help after Georgian forces attacked the self-proclaimed republic. President Medvedev says Russia will protect its citizen in the area at all costs.

Several Russian peacekeepers have been killed in clashes with Georgian forces.

"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.

Russian 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."

The head of Georgia’s national Security Council said: "If Russia indeed sent its troops to Georgian territory, it means we are at war with Russia."

And according to the Georgian Interior Ministry, Russian aircraft have dropped two bombs near the Vaziani military airbase in a Tbilisi suburb. No injuries have been reported.

Civilian fears

The Russian president's envoy in South Ossetia Dmitry Medoyev warned that Tbilisi is planning a "policy of ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia."

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, he said: "They want to cleanse South Ossetia of [ethnic] Ossetians, and this is what the Georgian armed forces are doing now".

Georgia has announced a three hour moratorium on fighting so a humanitarian corridor can be opened up.

The move follows a request from the Red Cross to deliver supplies to civilians in the conflict zone.

Refugees have been fleeing the region since fighting began early on Friday, Press Secretary Konstantin Poltoranin told Interfax.

Russia's Federal Migration Service says it’s ready to recieve refugees from the hostilities.

[Source: Russia Today, Moscow, 08Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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