Russian Foreign Ministry says Threat of Georgian-Ossetian hostilities real
The situation in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone exacerbated on August 1-2 because of the mortar shelling of Tskhinvali residential areas, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
"The threat of large-scale hostilities between Georgia and South Ossetia is growing real," the ministry said.
Despite appeals of the Georgian administration for immediate measures, which would alleviate the tensions, Georgian deeds are entirely different, the ministry said. Georgia held exercises on the Tskhinvali outskirts and moved forces and heavy armor close to the conflict zone on August 2 night.
"We are taking intensive diplomatic and peacekeeping measures in order to prevent further escalation of tensions, to avoid new casualties and damage, and to make the situation controllable," the ministry said.
Moscow thinks it vital to immediately resume negotiations in the format of the Joint Control Commission (JCC) and to hold urgent meetings of working groups of the conflicting sides.
"An agreement, which would pledge non-resumption of combat operations and guarantee security, is an absolute priority. The agreement has been suggested by the OSCE," the ministry said. "The possible use of force will crush hopes for the Georgian-Ossetian settlement."
The South Ossetian Interior Ministry said on Sunday that Georgian servicemen and military hardware were moving inside the conflict zone last night and in the morning. "Plenty of them reached the republic’s southern border from the Gori side," the ministry said. "The villages of Mugut, Prineu Velit and Chorbaneuli in the Znauri district were shelled from 3:00 a.m. through dawn."
Assistant commander of the combined peacekeeping force in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone Vladimir Ivanov confirmed the shelling of Mugut. He said that military observers of the combined peacekeeping force and the OSCE mission had organized the evacuation of Mugut children by request of the South Ossetian side.
Nineteen buses carrying children from South Ossetia have reached the Nizhny Zaramag checkpoint, an assistant of the North Ossetian emergency situations minister told Itar-Tass.
"Some 534 people, among them 390 children, have come to visit us," he said. "Once the border formalities are done, the motorcade will reach Tamisk. The visitors will be accommodated at the Epiphany Convent, which houses a center for rehabilitation of terrorist act victims."
Representatives of the North Ossetian Education Ministry will later accommodate children at dormitories and hotels.
"We have enough lodgings for the children, both hotels and college dormitories. The dormitories will accommodate women with children aged 24-36 months," he said.
Earlier in the day North Ossetian President Taimuraz Mamsurov said they were ready to receive as many South Ossetian children as necessary and give "any kind of civilized aid" to the unrecognized republic.
This week witnessed several incidents in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone.
Military observers of the combined peacekeeping force in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) failed to monitor the morning gunfire exchange near the Georgian village of Sveri, assistant combined force commander Vladimir Ivanov told Itar-Tass on July 29.
"The monitoring team was attacked on the road between Kekhvi and Sveri," he said. "The assailants used firearms and, presumably, GP-25 grenade launchers against the vehicles of the military observers."
"A car of Georgian journalists appeared from the Kekhvi side during the attack, and the crew started recording the incident. Targeted gunfire from Sveri and Andzisi resumed as the monitoring team attempted to drive away," Ivanov said.
The combined peacekeeping force command described the incident as "a planned action aimed to discredit the activity of the combined peacekeeping force and military observers, among them representatives of the OSCE mission."
Tskhinvali residential areas were put under sniper fire on August 1. South Ossetia replied to the gunfire.
"Up till now the Ossetian side abstained from such actions, but things changed," South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity said.
He said the sniper fire at South Ossetian police posts and residential areas became possible "with the transfer of 40 sniper rifles from Ukraine and 120 from the United States to Georgia."
"Georgia has declared a sniper war on the republic. It is once again trying to unleash hostilities. Ukraine and the United States are equally responsible for that," Kokoity said.
A Georgian mortar squad started bombing southern areas of Tskhinvali at about 9:00 p.m. Moscow time. Northern areas were put under automatic gunfire. Military observers and OSCE representatives confirmed that the fire was coming from the Georgian villages of Ergneti and Zemo-Nikozi.
Peacekeeping force assistant commander Vladimir Ivanov said they had confirmed that the gunfire, presumably from sniper rifles, was coming from the new Georgian positions located 500 meters away from the Georgian village of Prisi.
Three people were killed in the sniper shooting incident in South Ossetia, Information and Press Committee Chairperson Irina Gagloyeva told Itar-Tass by phone.
She said another seven people were injured.
"Snipers began to shoot from the Georgian territory at a refugee dormitory in northern Tskhinvali at about 9:00 p.m. Moscow time," she said.
People are afraid to go outdoors, as the gunfire comes from various directions, Gagloyeva said.
In addition, Tskhinvali has a drinking water emergency.
City mayor Robert Guliyev put the blame on illegal connections to the Edis-Tskhinvali water mains on Georgian territories, the South Ossetian Information and Press Committee website said.
A joint inspection team of the combined peacekeeping force, the OSCE, Georgian and Ossetian experts exposed 61 illegal connections to the water mains, Guliyev said.
"Therefore, only 25% of the necessary amount of water reaches Tskhinvali. This is not enough even for limited deliveries of water to residential areas – the entire supply stays within water mains. Drinking water is delivered by trucks," he said.
South Ossetia will not allow a change of the existent negotiating format, South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity told a North Ossetian delegation on Sunday.
"We will not hold negotiations without North Ossetia and Russia," he remarked.
The president of the unrecognized republic thus replied to the statement of Georgian State Reintegration Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Settlement of Conflicts Temur Iakobashvili.
He said Tbilisi was ready for direct dialog with Tskhinvali for alleviating tensions in the conflict zone and peacefully settling the problem.
"There is no alternative to direct negotiations with de facto Tskhinvali authorities," he said. "Georgia is ready to start negotiations without preconditions, but, unfortunately, they refuse to negotiate."
He said he conveyed the readiness for meeting any place, including Tskhinvali, via the OSCE observation mission and the combined peacekeeping force command on Saturday.
Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh has reacted to escalated tensions in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone with the refusal to attend the Friends to Georgia meeting planned in Berlin for August 15.
Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said earlier that Abkhazia would not mind taking part in the meeting.
Georgia is not surprised that Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh has refused to take part in the Berlin meeting of Friends to Georgia (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany), Georgian State Reintegration Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Settlement of Conflicts Temur Iakobashvili said on Sunday.
"Sukhumi has been searching for pretexts to abstain from the Berlin meeting. They have chosen the exacerbated situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone," he said. "There is no alternative to the negotiations on peaceful settlement of the Abkhaz conflict."
[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 04Aug08]
The Question of South Ossetia
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