Russian TV: Tanks roll into Georgian breakaway
Russian television Friday showed a convoy of Russian tanks and said they were heading into the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia as escalating tensions over the region threatened to boil into full blown conflict, CNN reported.
The move came after Russia denounced as "aggressive" a Georgian troops military offensive to regain control over the province, vowing to respond.
Russian authorities earlier said several of its peacekeepers died in a Georgian attack in South Ossetia, which borders Russia and has strong ties to its vast northern neighbor, and they vowed not to leave Russian citizens in the territory unprotected.
"The Georgian leadership has launched a dirty adventure," a statement from Russia's Defense Ministry said on Friday. "We will not leave our peacekeepers and Russian citizens unprotected."
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Georgia started the fighting and warned that Russia would respond to their actions.
"Heavy weapons and artillery have been sent there, and tanks have been added. Deaths and injuries have been reported, including among Russian peacekeepers," Putin said in comments carried Friday by Russia's Interfax news agency.
"It's all very sad and alarming. And, of course, there will be a response."
Earlier Friday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in a televised statement that Russian aircraft bombed several Georgian villages and other civilian facilities.
He added that there were injuries and damage to buildings. "A full-scale aggression has been launched against Georgia," he said.
A Georgian official reported that seven people were hurt in the attack, the Associated Press said.
Saakashvili...also called for the full-scale mobilization of Georgian reserve forces as fighting continued to rage in South Ossetia's capital.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer issued a statement Friday saying he was seriously concerned about the recent events in the region, and called on "***all sides*** to end armed clashes and begin direct talks."
The United States also urged all sides to bring an immediate end to the violence. "The U.S. has been in discussions for many months with all parties to find a peaceful resolution," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
The latest events came just hours after the U.N. Security Council finished an emergency session to discuss a dramatic escalation of violence in Georgia and South Ossetia. The session ended Friday morning without a statement about the fighting.
The official news agency of the South Ossetian government reported heavy shelling in the territory's capital, Tskhinvali, that left dozens of buildings ablaze.
About 2,000 Georgian troops attempted to storm Tskhinvali overnight and were regrouping south of the city, according to Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency.
Around 10 a.m. Friday, Georgia said Russian military aircraft violated Georgian airspace and dropped two bombs on Kareli, a part of Georgia that is about 50 miles northwest of the capital, Tblisi, and is not in the conflict zone, said Shota Utiashvili, spokesman for the Georgian Ministry of Interior.
[Source: Trend News Agency, Azerbaijan, 08Aug08]
The Question of South Ossetia
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