Russia vows to defend South Ossetia

Russia will intervene if conflict erupts in the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia, a senior Russian diplomat has warned.

Special ambassador Yuri Popov said Russia would defend its citizens living in the conflict zone, Interfax reports.

At least six people have been killed in clashes in the region in recent days.

The South Ossetian separatists blame Georgian forces for starting the fighting.

Russia, which has backed the separatists since they fought a war to break away from Georgia in the 1990s, said it would step in if violence escalated.

"If events develop according to the worst-case violence scenario, Russia will not allow itself to remain indifferent, considering that Russian citizens live in South Ossetia, particularly in the conflict zone," Interfax quotes Yuri Popov as saying.

"I don't want to make any grim predictions, but if such events are repeated, the situation may spiral out of control and lead to sad consequences," said Mr Popov, who heads the Russian delegation to a joint commission in South Ossetia.

Senior South Ossetian and Georgian officials are due to meet on Thursday, Mr Popov said.

Mr Popov's comments come after South Ossetia's separatist government accused Georgia on Friday of killing six people and injuring seven in an attack on the outlying village of Satikari.

South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity accused the country of "attempting to spark a full-scale war".

[Source: BBC News, 05Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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