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South Ossetian Separatists say 2 killed, 11 Wounded in Georgian Shelling // Russia Accuses Georgia
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07/05/2008 02:25 AM
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South Ossetian separatists say 2 killed, 11 wounded in Georgian shelling
By Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili
6:22 a.m. July 4, 2008
TBILISI, Georgia – Georgian forces shelled several towns in the breakaway province of South Ossetia, killing two people and wounding 11 others, separatist officials said Friday.
The separatists said they fired back. The Georgians said their troops had to fire because the separatists attacked them.
South Ossetia is one of two Georgian regions controlled by separatists who maintain close ties with Moscow. The other, Abkhazia, has also been tense in recent months amid Russian contentions that Georgia is preparing to reassert control of the area by force.
South Ossetia's separatist President Eduard Kokoity sternly warned Georgia against continuing the shelling, saying his forces would respond with heavy weapons.
“It will be very difficult to stop the war,” he said in remarks broadcast by Russia's Vesti 24 television. “Consequences will be grave, particularly for Georgia.”
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov strongly urged Georgia on Friday to sign a binding agreement to refrain from using force against the two breakaway provinces, Russian news reports said.
South Ossetia has run its own affairs without international recognition since driving out Georgian government forces in 1992. It has been destabilized by frequent skirmishes.
Georgian Gen. Mamuka Kurashvili blamed the skirmish on South Ossetian separatist forces, saying they had attacked a Georgian checkpoint in the area and that Georgian forces had to fire back.
Separatist government spokeswoman Irina Gagloyeva said South Ossetian forces returned fire and the regional government mobilized reservists in response to the attack.
Gagloyeva said in a phone interview that the shelling of the region's main city, Tskhinvali, and several nearby villages went on for several hours overnight. She initially said that three people had been killed, but later changed the statement to two dead, citing an erroneous casualty report by local officials.
Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, who chairs the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, voiced “profound concern” Friday over fighting in South Ossetia. He urged all parties to take “practical measures to de-escalate tensions and to refrain from any action that would further destabilize the situation.”
Georgia, which has vowed to bring the rebel provinces back into the fold, accuses Russia of aiming to absorb the regions.
On Thursday, an explosion killed separatist police Col. Nodar Bibilov in South Ossetia and authorities blamed Georgia's secret services for the killing.
Separately, gunmen opened fire on the man recognized by Georgia as South Ossetia's leader, Dmitry Sanakoyev. He escaped unharmed, but three Georgian police officers were wounded in the ambush Thursday.
[link to www.signonsandiego.com]
Russia accuses Georgia of open aggression
·Russia accused Georgia of "an open act of aggression" for launching mortar attacks against Ossetia.
·It said the large-scale attack killed two people and injured 10.
·Russian FM Lavrov demanded Friday that Tbilisi sign a non-aggression pledge on South Ossetia.
MOSCOW, July 4 (Xinhua) -- Russian foreign ministry accused Georgia Friday of "an open act of aggression" for launching mortar attacks against Ossetia.
The Russian-backed separatist administration said, Georgian forces fired at their capital, Tskhinvali, and nearby villages. It said the large-scale attack killed two people and injured 10.
The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement, "Tbilisi's actions represented an overt act of aggression against South Ossetia, which is an internationally recognized party to the conflict resolution process."
The statement said "the recent military incidents will lead to a sharp escalation in the armed confrontation in the conflict zone."
"Any further delays in resuming the negotiations process could lead to the most tragic consequences," it warned.
The Georgian side said reportedly that its forces returned fire only after South Ossetian rebels had attacked Georgian-controlled villages in the region.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanded Friday that Tbilisi sign a non-aggression pledge on South Ossetia.
Russian news agencies quoted the head of Russia's peacekeeping troops in the region as saying that more soldiers could be deployed there if the situation worsened.
Georgia's Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke from central rule during wars in the 1990s after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. But their self-proclaimed independence is not recognized internationally.
[link to news.xinhuanet.com]
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