2,000 civilians dead
At least 2,000 civilians have died in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali as a result of fighting between Russian and Georgian forces, Russia’s ambassador to Georgia told the Interfax news agency, reports Fred Weir.Updated: Aug 09, 2008 23:20 IST
At least 2,000 civilians have died in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali as a result of fighting between Russian and Georgian forces, Russia’s ambassador to Georgia told the Interfax news agency. Vyacheslav Kovalenko told the Russian agency that 13 Russian peacekeepers were killed and up to 70 injured in the fighting.
Earlier, Georgia called for a ceasefire on Saturday after Russian bombers widened an offensive to force back Georgian troops seeking control over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. “I call for an immediate ceasefire,” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in Tbilisi. “Russia has launched a full scale military invasion of Georgia.” Abkhazia, another pro-Russian enclave in Georgia, said its forces had begun an operation to drive out Georgian forces.
US President George W Bush said Russian attacks on Georgia outside South Ossetia marked a “dangerous escalation” of the crisis and urged Moscow to halt bombing immediately.
Russia said it had seized the rebel capital, Tskhinvali, but Georgia denied the claim on the second day of fighting.
Russian fighter jets also targetted the major Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline which carries oil to the West from Asia but missed, Georgia’s Economic Development Minister Ekaterina Sharashidze said. "This clearly shows that Russia has not just targeted Georgian economic outlets but international economic outlets in Georgia," she said at a news briefing.
Russia said two of its warplanes had been shot down and 12 of its soldiers had been killed.
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin arrived in Vladikavkaz, close to Russia’s border with Georgia, amid fighting in the separatist South Ossetia region. Putin came to Vladikavkaz in a change of schedule after attending the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing. He is likely to discuss the influx of refugees from the conflict.
The country’s National Olympic Committee said that Georgia may pull its 35-strong Olympic team out of the Beijing Games. “We’re talking about it now. It will be the decision of the president of the country (Mikheil Saakashvili),” spokesman Giorgi Tchanishvili said in the Chinese capital.