Russia considers measures to stop violence in South Ossetia

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will chair an emergency meeting of the national Security Council in the next few hours to discuss the situation in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, the president's spokesperson said on Friday.

Georgia launched a full-scale attack on its breakaway republic of S. Ossetia overnight, using tanks, combat aircraft, heavy artillery and infantry. Georgia said it had captured most of its breakaway republic and called on the separatist authorities to surrender.

"The Security Council will consider as soon as possible proposals to settle the situation in the region," Natalia Timakova said.

South Ossetia said at least 15 civilians had been killed so far and Russian peacekeepers said Georgia had shelled their positions, wounding several Russian servicemen.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is currently in Beijing, warned that Georgian aggression against its breakaway region will provoke a "response".

"The situation is very sad. It raises concerns and will certainly incur a response," Putin said.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called on the UN Security Council to intervene to stop violence in the region, but the council failed on Friday to reach an agreement on a Russian-drafted statement.

Several Russian lawmakers on Friday called for military action against Tbilisi in response to Georgia's aggression.

"Russia must interfere in the conflict to stop the violence," influential MP Konstantin Zatulin said. "Russia must consider a military operation because our peacekeeping contingent will not be enough to ensure peace in the region."

State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov said Russia would protect its citizens in South Ossetia. Many residents of the self-proclaimed republic hold Russian citizenship.

South Ossetia and another Georgian breakaway republic, Abkhazia, broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, gaining de facto independence after bloody conflicts with Tbilisi.

Georgia has pledged to bring the two tiny republics back under central control and has accused Russia of trying to annex the regions.

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

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The Question of South Ossetia
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