Russia denies bombing Georgian towns

A top Russian Armed Forces official denied on Sunday Georgian claims that Russian warplanes have been bombing towns in Georgia.

Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili declared a state of war on Saturday, after a series of Russian air strikes against military targets which came in response to Georgia's offensive to seize control over the South Ossetia. Russia says around 2,000 civilians were killed in the Georgian onslaught.

"The Georgian side has named some nearby populated areas and towns, saying they are being bombed by the Russian Air Force. I take full responsibility in saying that the Russian side did not bomb any populated area," Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, told a RIA Novosti news conference.

Russia has branded mass killings of South Ossetians, most of whom are Russian citizens, an act of genocide. Around 34,000 South Ossetians have fled across the border into Russia, where they are being housed in makeshift hospital camps.

Nogovitsyn said Russia had tried to broker a deal with Georgia on setting up two humanitarian corridors to evacuate South Ossetians, but that the deal had fallen through.

"This issue was actually decided, but Georgia proposed setting up the corridor for only two hours, and allowing the refugees to leave only into Georgia, even though the people want to go to [North] Ossetia [in Russia]," he said.

Negotiations on the issue will continue, he said.

The official said Russian peacekeepers now control most of South Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali, and that Georgia is withdrawing its troops from its breakaway province. Russia sent tanks, artillery and hundreds of troops into South Ossetia on Friday after Georgian forces seized Tskhinvali.

"We confirm the withdrawal of Georgian troops during the night from Tskhinvali. Most of the city is now controlled by Russian peacekeepers. The Georgian side has started to pull its units out of Tskhinvali," he said.

Nogovitsyn also denied Georgian claims that 10 Russian warplanes had been shot down, saying only two planes had been lost.

"One crew was evacuated to a Russian hospital, and we have no information on the second crew," he said.

Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili earlier said Georgian forces had fully withdrawn from the separatist province, a claim swiftly rejected by Russian peacekeepers.

Peacekeepers say around 7,400 Georgian troops supported by 100 tanks and artillery are currently involved in fighting around Tskhinvali.

"The city is being shelled, and snipers are actively shooting, including against civilians," a peacekeeping command spokesman said.

[Source: Information Agency Novosti, Moscow, 10Aug08]

Tienda de Libros Radio Nizkor On-Line Donations

The Question of South Ossetia
small logoThis document has been published on 11Aug08 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.