Russia says threat of war between Georgia, South Ossetia real

The threat of war between Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia is becoming increasingly real, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

The conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia has intensified after the rebel region's territory was shelled late on Friday and early on Saturday, as a result of which six people were killed and 13 wounded. South Ossetia accused Georgian forces of shelling its territory while Georgia blamed the separatists for provoking armed clashes.

"The situation in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict area, which sharply aggravated on August 1-2 as a result of mass mortar shelling of residential quarters in Tskhinvali, which claimed human lives, remains extremely explosive. The threat of large-scale combat operations between Georgia and South Ossetia is becoming ever more real," the ministry said on its web site.

South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Hundreds died in the bloody conflict that followed. The pro-Western Georgian leadership has said it is determined to bring the region, along with another breakaway republic, Abkhazia, back under central control.

South Ossetian authorities on Sunday accused Georgia of moving its troops close to the separatist region's borders, saying that an artillery battalion and two mortar batteries from the 4th motorized brigade of the Georgian Defense Ministry had started movement from the army base in Georgia's eastern town of Gori towards the separatist republic's capital, Tskhinvali.

Georgia rejected the reports as being untrue.

South Ossetia leader Eduard Kokoity said on Saturday he was ready to mobilize men in the separatist republic and take volunteers from other Caucasus republics to fight Georgia.

In its statement, Russia's Foreign Ministry also urged both conflicting parties to show restraint and prevent the use of force in the conflict area.

"The parties should act in the spirit of goodwill and focus their efforts on settling the crisis situation and prevent its recurrences," the ministry said.

According to the ministry, it is important to resume the negotiation process in the format of the Mixed Control Commission for the solution of the South Ossetian conflict and hold extraordinary working meetings between representatives of the conflicting parties.

[Source: Russian Information Agency Novosti, Moscow, 03Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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