Russian Clout Prevails in S. Ossetia - Christian Science Monitor
Georgia appeared Sunday to have lost its bid to retake a breakaway territory in a brutal war that may lead to deep changes in the troubled Caucasus and pose serious obstacles to securing lasting rapprochement between a resurgent Russia and the West. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili appealed for international mediation after Russia claimed full military control of South Ossetia's capital, which it invaded Friday after Georgia launched an assault on the rebel statelet. Moscow, which says the assault killed 2,000 civilians and displaced 34,000, says it is fulfilling its peacekeeping mandate under 1992 accords that ended Georgia's civil war. But some analysts, including a former US diplomat, believe that Russia's true strategic goal may involve redrawing the map in its old Soviet spheres of influence.
Georgian Troops Retreat, Civilians Flee - Tony Halpin, The Times
Georgian troops were retreating under shellfire here today as the Russian military continued to press forward and take full control of South Ossetia. Clouds of smoke rose up as artillery fire exploded in fields less than half a mile from the bridge marking South Ossetia’s border with Georgia. A group of Georgian soldiers hastily abandoned their truck after its wheels were shot out by a sniper and crossed the border on foot. At a base next to the bridge, Russian peacekeepers appeared confident that they would soon be joined by comrades from the regular army advancing through South Ossetia from the north.
Fears of Russian Advance into Georgia Grow - Daily Telegraph
A full-scale evacuation of the Georgian city of has Gori started as fears rose that Russia would soon advance its troops across the border from the breakaway republic of South Ossetia into the main body of Georgia itself. Any such incursion would be a dangerous escalation of a conflict that has already reportedly claimed thousands of lives and displaced thousands more. Russia, which said it moved into South Ossetia last week to protect pro-Russians there from "genocide" commited by Georgians, has now been accused of "ethnic cleansing" itself. Russia regained total control of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, and Georgia offered a unilateral ceasefire as it withdrew all its troops. International opinion hardened against Russia, which has been roundly accused of a "disproportionate reaction" to Georgia's move into South Ossetia last week.
Georgia Orders Cease-Fire - Emma Stickgold, Voice of America
Georgia says it has ordered its troops in the breakaway region of South Ossetia to cease fire, after withdrawing its troops from South Ossetia's capital. There was no direct response from Russia to Georgia's offer to negotiate an end to three days of fierce fighting in the region. Russian officials say they now control most of Tkhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, as the conflict between Russia and Georgia widened. The fighting spread to Abkhazia, Georgia's other breakaway region, and Georgian officials said Russian planes bombed a military airfield outside the Georgian capital. Abkhazia announced it had mobilized troops, and called up reservists Sunday to reassert control over the one part of the province that remains under Georgian control. Russia sent naval vessels to Georgia's Black Sea coast. Ukrainian officials warned that they may bar Russian warships taken from the key Russian naval base in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol from returning.
Russia Expands Georgia Blitz, Deploys Ships - Associated Press
Russia expanded its bombing blitz to the Georgian capital, deployed ships off the coast and, a Georgian official said, sent tanks from the separatist region of South Ossetia into Georgian territory, heading toward a border city before being turned back Sunday. Russia also claimed its forces sank a Georgian missile boat that was trying to attack Russian ships in the Black Sea, news agencies reported. US-allied Georgia called a unilateral cease-fire - "We are not crazy," said President Mikhail Saakashvili - and claimed its troops were retreating Sunday from the disputed province of South Ossetia in the face of Russia's far superior firepower. Russia said the soldiers were "not withdrawing but regrouping" and refused to recognize a truce. The Russian Defense Ministry refused to comment to The Associated Press on the reports of the sinking and Georgian officials could not immediately be reached. If confirmed, it could mark a serious escalation of the fighting that has raged between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia.
Georgia Says Russia Opens Second Front - Financial Times
Georgia said Russian troops were storming a Georgian-controlled gorge in a second breakaway region, opening a second front in a conflict that threatens to engulf the region in all-out war. Georgia said armed clashes had broken out as Russian troops entered the Georgian-controlled Kodori gorge in the pro-Moscow enclave of Abkhazia. The pro-Moscow Abkhaz president, Sergei Bagapsh, said Abkhazia had sent about a thousand troops as well as warplanes to the Kodori gorge to drive out Georgian troops, opening a second front in a conflict that has marked the worst fighting in the region in 20 years. Georgia’s interior ministry said earlier Sunday it had withdrawn its troops from South Ossetia to take new positions on the border after “massive Russian air attacks” and three days of intense fighting in response to what Russia said were Georgian efforts to take control of the pro-Moscow enclave. Russia confirmed that Georgian troops have started pulling out of the regional capital, Tskhinvali.
Georgian Forces Pull Out of South Ossetia Capital - Voice of America
Georgia says it has withdrawn its troops from the capital of the breakaway province of South Ossetia, where Georgian forces have been fighting Russian troops for control. The announcement came Sunday as some 10,000 Russian troops were landing in South Ossetia in preparation for a morning attack. Russia's Interfax news agency says the Russian navy has deployed warships to the Black Sea coast to prevent arms and other military supplies from reaching Georgia. Earlier Sunday, a senior Georgian official said Russian warplanes bombed a military airfield outside Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.
Georgian Troops Pull Out of S. Ossetian Capital - Associated Press
A Georgian minister says Georgian troops have pulled out of Tskhinvali - the capital of the breakaway province of South Ossetia - under massive Russian shelling. Georgia's Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili says the troops left Tskhinvali on Sunday to change their location. Yakobashvili says Georgian troops remained in South Ossetia.
Georgia Withdraws as Russia Builds Firepower - Agence France-Presse
Georgia withdrew from the separatist region of South Ossetia on Sunday after new clashes with Russian forces as Moscow amassed its military firepower to overwhelm its neighbour. "We have left practically all of South Ossetia as an expression of goodwill and our willingness to stop military confrontation," Georgian National Security Council Secretary Alexander Lomaia told AFP. Officials in South Ossetia, the separatist region at the heart of the fighting, said artillery fire was exchanged overnight and Georgia claimed Russian jets had bombed a military airfield near the Georgian capital Tbilisi. Georgia also said Russia had brought 10,000 extra troops into South Ossetia and was assembling armoured vehicles close to the border. Reports said Russia was imposing a naval blocade after moving warships into range.
Georgia Pulls Troops from S. Ossetia - United Press International
Georgia said Sunday it has pulled its troops from the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali in the face of a massive Russian counter-attack. The troops, which were ordered into the breakaway region of South Ossetia Friday by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, were returning to positions they held before Thursday, CNN reported. Other reports, however, said wasn't clear if Georgia troops were exiting just Tskhinvali or South Ossetia entirely. Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili said troops left Tskhinvali but were remaining in other areas of South Ossetia, Radio Free Europe said. About 200 Georgian soldiers have died in South Ossetia, while 37 Georgian civilians have died so far in Russian counter-attacks, military officials told CNN. Separatists and Russian officials claimed 1,500 South Ossetians had died in the violence.
US, Russian Ambassadors Spar at UN over Georgia - Associated Press
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad exchanged sharp remarks with the Russian ambassador on Sunday, accusing Moscow of resisting attempts to make peace with Georgia after days of fighting have left hundreds of civilians dead. Khalilzad pointedly asked Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin in the UN Security Council session whether Russia's aim was to "change the leadership in Georgia" - a charge Churkin did not directly address but seemed to deny. Churkin also accused the UN secretary-general's office of taking Georgia's side. A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon denied the claim; Ban's office had said late Saturday night he was "alarmed by the escalation of hostilities in Georgia." Much of the session, which began Sunday morning with private talks and a public session, became a tense standoff between major powers Russia and the US.
US Assails Russian 'Escalation' Of Crisis - Karen DeYoung, Washington Post
The Bush administration yesterday decried Russia's use of strategic bombers and ballistic missiles in Georgia as a "dangerous escalation" of the hostilities there, but said it will not immediately send an envoy to help mediate the crisis. "It's hard for us to understand what the Russian plan is," said a senior US official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. "People can argue back and forth over who shot first," but the Russian response is "far disproportionate to whatever threat" it may have perceived in the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia. With residents of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, in a "panic" amid fears that the city will be bombed, the US Embassy there has been placed on "authorized departure" status, meaning that dependents can leave at US expense, the official said in a conference call. The Bush administration is also arranging to transport as many as 2,000 Georgian troops back home from Iraq. Georgian forces make up the third-largest contingent in the multinational force in Iraq, after the United States and Britain.
Georgia and Russia Nearing All-Out War - Anne Barnard, New York Times
The conflict between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia moved toward full-scale war on Saturday, as Russia sent warships to land ground troops in the disputed territory of Abkhazia and broadened its bombing campaign across Georgia. The fighting, which sharply escalated when Georgian forces tried to retake the capital of South Ossetia, a pro-Russian region that won de facto autonomy from Georgia in the early 1990s, appeared to be developing into the worst clashes between Russia and a foreign military since the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. As Russia moved more forces into the region and continued aerial bombing, it appeared determined to occupy both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both Moscow-backed breakaway regions where Russia had issued passports to most residents and declared them Russian citizens. Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, said Russia’s ambitions were even more extensive.
Georgia/Russia: Closer to Full-blown War - Stack and Spiegel, Los Angeles Times
Russia plowed closer to all-out war with Georgia on Saturday, sending warplanes to bomb deep inside the neighboring country and preparing to move more troops into the fray over a pro-Moscow separatist republic. Moscow brushed aside calls from the Georgian government for a cease-fire, insisting that the troops' mission was to restore calm to the breakaway republic, South Ossetia. "We are enforcing peace," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who reported that the death toll was 1,500 and climbing. That figure could not be confirmed. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, meanwhile, declared a state of war, and Georgia's parliament voted to impose martial law.
Russia Broadens S. Ossetia Conflict - Kelly Hearn, Washington Times
Russia and Georgia appeared headed to a wider war Saturday, with Russia targeting military and civilian sites outside the conflict zone in the breakaway region of South Ossetia and rejecting an offer of a cease-fire from the government of Georgia. The military action, which began Thursday when Georgian troops tried to retake control of South Ossetia, has left hundreds dead and sent hundreds of others fleeing from the area. Georgian officials reported some 210 people dead and 400 wounded. Russian officials, who blamed Georgia for inflicting heavy causalities against Russian citizens in the breakaway South Ossetia enclave, put the death toll at 1,500.
Russia-Georgia War Intensifies - Peter Finn, Washington Post
Russian strategic bombers and jet fighter planes pounded targets in many parts of Georgia on Saturday, hitting apartment buildings and economic installations, as well as military targets in an escalating war that is killing more and more civilians and confounding international efforts to secure a cease-fire. Russia continued to pour troops and tanks into South Ossetia, the breakaway region of Georgia that triggered the conflict, to confront Georgian forces that are attempting to reclaim the region. Both sides claimed control of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, where sporadic gunfire and shelling continued Saturday.
Georgia Conflict: Screams of the Injured - Adrian Blomfield, Daily Telegraph
The ground shook and a series of explosions rippled through the air. From the middle of a housing estate in the Georgian town of Gori a huge fireball rose into the sky, twisting and mushrooming as if in slow motion. Choking dust swirled above the debris, darkening the sky. A brief silence followed and then the screaming started. For two days, Georgia has been convulsed by a Russian air and ground assault in a conflict that has escalated rapidly from a localised war against separatist rebels in South Ossetia into a full-scale military confrontation. But this was the first time that Russian bombs had struck a residential area.
Hundreds Die as Georgia War Escalates - Mark Franchetti, The Times
The war over South Ossetia, the breakaway region of Georgia, appeared to be widening last night. Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, flew into the area from the Beijing Olympics as his forces seemed to be gaining the upper hand. After another day of fighting in the rebellious province - and Russian air force attacks that killed civilians in Georgia itself - there were reports of fighting in Abkhazia, Georgia’s other separatist region. Abkhazian leaders said they had launched air and artillery strikes on government forces with Russian air support. In South Ossetia itself, separatist leaders claimed 1,500 had been killed, including many civilians, in the initial Georgian assault on Friday. They said tens of thousands had been displaced. Moscow claimed to have pushed Georgian troops from Tskhinvali, the region’s heavily damaged capital.
Inside the Battle Zone - The Independent
In the streets of Gori, where Stalin was born, the people were still in a state of shock yesterday after an attack by jets from Russia, the country he once ruled. Smoke was pouring from three apartment blocks devastated by a missile strike that appeared to have missed its target, a nearby military training ground, and nobody knew how many people had been killed or injured. Nobody - except, it seems, Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili - could have expected that Russia would let a Georgian assault on South Ossetia go by without a response. It was no surprise that as soon as Georgian forces moved into the troublesome enclave on Friday, Russia responded forcefully. But Moscow's decision to hit back within Georgia itself took Georgians unawares, and Gori, the nearest Georgian city to the de facto border with South Ossetia, bore the brunt.
Russia Strikes a Blow at its Fears of NATO - Mark Franchetti, The Times
Tensions over South Ossetia and Abkhazia - two tiny Russian-backed separatist regions in Georgia that have enjoyed de facto independence since soon after the break-up of the Soviet Union - have been rising for months. Western intelligence experts had long been warning that war was likely. One key is the recognition earlier this year by Nato and European Union countries of Kosovan independence from Serbia. Russia opposed this; Serbia has long been its client state. However, it tried to turn the defeat to its advantage by pushing the argument that, if Kosovans could be independent, so too could the Abkhazians and Ossetians. This was a significant development in Russia’s reaction to what it regards as steady western encirclement.
Britain and US Try to Broker Peace - Tony Allen-Mills, The Times
Britian joined a diplomatic mission to Georgia last night to try to broker peace talks and call for a ceasefire. America also launched diplomatic initiatives to end the war in South Ossetia but US officials privately indicated that the West had been surprised by Russia’s aggression and had few options for intervention. David Miliband, the foreign secretary, described the fighting as “dangerously destabilising”. He added his voice to calls for a cessation of violence and urged both sides to hold peace talks. A combined European Union, American and NATO mission was being sent to Georgia last night with Sir Brian Fall, Britain’s representative for the south Caucasus, as part of the team. Matthew Bryza, deputy assistant secretary of state, has also been dispatched as America’s special envoy but officials acknowledge that its options are limited.
Desperation and Bravado - Peter Finn, Washington Post
On a street in this central Georgian city Saturday, an Orthodox priest standing by the side of the road splashed holy water on the cars that careened past. Nearby, another priest led a small group of people carrying crosses and praying. Everywhere in the frontline city in the two-day-old war between Russia and Georgia, there was a sense of desperation. And bravado. The streets, largely empty of civilians, were full of Georgian military reservists idling in the shadows of shuttered shops as they waited to move out and join the fight against Russian forces that have bombed the city twice in as many days. Among them were latter-day Rambos in bandannas and middle-age men with potbellies and red faces. And there were some who looked like kids, their hair long, their faces marked by acne and their weapons uneasy in their grip.
Shattered by Strife, Families Try to Rebuild - Siegel and Barry, New York Times
Since Thursday, dozens of residents of South Ossetia have died and hundreds have been wounded in fierce clashes between Russian and Georgian forces. On Saturday the scattered families of Tskhinvali began to reconstruct themselves in a halting fashion. Russian registration and aid stations were scattered along the highway that connects Tskhinvali with Vladikavkaz, on the Russian side of the border. Soviet-era minibuses loaded with shaken refugees traveled up and down the road. Russian authorities reported that 34,000 refugees crossed the border into Russia over the past week - a striking number considering that the population of South Ossetia, which includes ethnic Georgians, is estimated to be around 72,000. People who live in Tskhinvali know what it is like to be trapped by ethnic violence. The divisions run so deep that ethnic Georgians and Ossetians have separate gas and electric grids.
Georgia Acts to Cool Investor Fears - Shuster and Baldwin, Reuters
Georgia, whose credit ratings were cut on Friday after military clashes with Russia, was praised on Saturday by foreign investors, who contrasted its efforts to reassure them over the crisis with those of Russia. Western bankers said that since fighting began in the breakway province of South Ossetia on Thursday, they had received phone calls and emails from Georgian leaders including Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze. They said Russia had made no similar effort, despite a plunge in its stock market on Friday which took the index of its most liquid exchange close to 21-month lows. The rouble also fell on foreign exchange markets. Gurgenidze even held a private conference call with two major western banks at 1645 Moscow time (1245 GMT) on Friday, as towns in South Ossetia were under heavy fire from Georgian artillery.
Russian Troops Enter Georgia - Emma Stickgold, Voice of America
Russian troops entered Georgia's breakaway province South Ossetia as violence broke out between Georgian troops and Russia-backed separatists, putting the region on the brink of an all-out war. Leaders had been scheduled to begin a round of negotiations, but instead, an overnight attack led by Georgian troops altered those plans. Georgian leaders say they launched their attack in response to Russian forces entering the region. Violent clashes are not uncommon in Georgia's breakaway province, South Ossetia, since it won de-facto independence in a war ending in 1992. But the latest round of explosions and gunfire that broke out in the region was the worst outbreak of hostilities in well over a decade. Georgian forces launched an attack with the Georgian government declaring that it intended to "restore constitutional order" in the breakaway region. South Ossetian officials say at least 15 civilians were killed and more than 20 were injured in the fighting. In addition, Russian Defense officials say 10 Russian peacekeepers were killed in the battles.
Russian Air, Ground Forces Strike Georgia - Peter Finn, Washington Post
Russia launched airstrikes Friday deep inside Georgia and mobilized columns of tanks after Georgian forces embarked on a major offensive to reassert control over South Ossetia, a separatist province. Political leaders on both sides said that war had begun. The United States, an ally of Georgia, and other governments appealed for a cease-fire. Georgian army units quickly seized Tskhinvali, capital of the mountainous province, Georgian officials said. But large numbers of Russian tanks appeared to be moving against them there. Russian television showed what was described as a Georgian armored vehicle burning on the city's streets. Local officials reported large numbers of civilians killed. Russian officials said that more than 10 of their troops had died.
Russian Troops Enter Rebel Enclave - Schwirtz and Barnard, New York Times
Russia conducted airstrikes on Georgian targets on Friday evening, escalating the conflict in a separatist area of Georgia that is shaping into a test of the power and military reach of an emboldened Kremlin. Earlier in the day, Russian troops and armored vehicles had rolled into South Ossetia, supporting the breakaway region in its bitter conflict with Georgia. The United States and other Western nations, joined by NATO, condemned the violence and demanded a cease-fire. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went a step further, calling on Russia to withdraw its forces. But the Russian soldiers remained, and Georgian officials reported at least one airstrike, on the Black Sea port of Poti, late on Friday night. Russian military units - including tank, artillery and reconnaissance - arrived in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, on Saturday to help Russian peacekeepers there, in response to overnight shelling by Georgian forces, state television in Russia reported, citing the Ministry of Defense. Ground assault aircraft were also mobilized, the Ministry said.
Russia Turns Might on Georgia - O’Flynn and Fletcher, The Times
Russia and Georgia were on the brink of war last night after Moscow responded to a Georgian offensive in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia by sending tanks, troops and war-planes across the border. More than a thousand civilians were reported to have been killed and large parts of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, were reduced to ruins as a conflict with potentially global repercussions erupted after months of rising tension. Georgia announced last night that it was withdrawing half of its 2,000 troops from Iraq as it ordered an all-out military mobilisation. The country is the West’s strongest ally in the region, one of the staunchest supporters of America’s War on Terror and a vital conduit for Western oil and gas supplies from Central Asia.
Russia Enters into 'War' in S. Ossetia - Adrian Blomfield, Daily Telegraph
Columns of Russian tanks plunged the two neighbours into war as they filed into South Ossetia, marking the Kremlin's first military assault on foreign soil since the Soviet Union's Afghanistan intevention, which ended in 1989. Russian tanks rolled towards the capital of South Ossetia and fighters bombed Georgian air bases after Georgia launched attacks on rebels in the breakaway region. South Ossetia won de-facto independence in a war which ended in 1992 but has been a source of tension ever since, along with Abkhazia, another separatist region. Russian peacekeepers have suffered 12 dead and 150 wounded, the peacekeeping forces were quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
Russia Moves Closer to War with Georgia - Megan Stack, Los Angeles Times
Russian tanks rumbled into the breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia today, and volunteer Russian fighters made their way over the border, pushing Moscow closer to a full-blown war against US-backed Georgia over the mountainous sliver of land. The Russian incursion came after Georgia launched a large-scale, predawn military operation meant to seize control over the rebel region, whose de facto autonomy and ties to Russia have long been an irritant to Georgian leaders. Backed by warplanes, Georgian waged a hard battle throughout the day for control of the republic's capital, Tskhinvali.
Russia, Georgia Do Battle - Jane Armstrong, Globe and Mail
Russia and Georgia, once united under a single Soviet banner but now sworn enemies, were on the brink of all-out war as Russian troops and tanks surrounded the capital city of the Georgian breakaway republic of South Ossetia after a day and night of bloody clashes. Russia ordered its troops into the rebel southern republic a day after Georgian forces were sent in to seize the region, which declared independence after a 1992 civil war. Fighting reportedly raged into the night with Georgia's Interior Ministry saying early Saturday that warplanes attacked three Georgian military bases and key facilities for shipping oil to the West.
Russian Forces Battle Georgians - BBC News
Russian forces are locked in fierce clashes with Georgia inside its breakaway South Ossetia region, reports say, amid fears of all-out war. Moscow sent armoured units across the border after Georgia moved against Russian-backed separatists. Russia says 12 of its soldiers are dead, and separatists estimate that 1,400 civilians have died. Georgia accuses Russia of waging war, and says it has suffered heavy losses in bombing raids, which Russia denies. Russian tanks have reportedly reached the northern suburbs of the regional capital, Tskhinvali, and there were conflicting claims about who was in control of the city.
Heavy Fighting in South Ossetia - BBC News
Georgian forces and South Ossetian separatists have been exchanging heavy fire just hours after agreeing to a ceasefire and Russian-mediated talks. Russian media reports said Georgia had launched a tank-led attack on the separatist stronghold of Tskhinvali, and airstrikes on rebel positions. Georgia says it aims to finish "a criminal regime" and restore order. At least 15 people are reported dead. Moscow called on the world community to work "to avert massive bloodshed". At Russia's request, members of the UN Security Council are holding a rare emergency session to discuss a response to the escalating violence.
Russia, Georgia Clash - Weir and Rimple, Christian Science Monitor
The diplomats may still be talking of peace, but from the front line deep inside the pro-Moscow breakaway republic of South Ossetia, a long-feared war between Russia and NATO-leaning Georgia appears to be under way. At stake are Russia's already strained relations with the West, which backs Georgia, as well as Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili's hopes of leading his country into the NATO alliance within the next year. An extended conflict might also hit global energy prices, if a crucial pipeline that carries Caspian oil and gas through Georgia to Western markets should be threatened. After weeks of escalating skirmishes along the frontier between Georgia and South Ossetia, Georgian forces launched a full-scale invasion on Friday. By nightfall, they claimed to have occupied the capital, Tskhinvali, and about 70 percent of the rebel republic's territory.
Russia, Georgia Seek Control of South Ossetia Capital - Reuters
Russian forces battled pro-Western Georgian troops in South Ossetia on Friday in an escalating conflict that threatens to engulf a key energy transit route to Western Europe. Both sides ignored pleas from world leaders for calm as Moscow and Tbilisi blamed each other for the fighting in South Ossetia which began after several days of skirmishes. Georgian forces shelled the capital of its breakaway region, which separatists said left 1,400 people dead.
Russia Says Has Control of S. Ossetian Capital - Reuters
Russia said it had driven Georgian forces from the capital of South Ossetia on Saturday as part of an operation to force Georgia to accept peace in its breakaway region. "Tactical groups have fully liberated Tskhinvali from the Georgian military and have started pushing Georgian units beyond the zone of peacekeepers responsibility," Tass quoted Ground Forces commander Vladimir Boldyrev as saying. Russian warplanes widened the offensive outside the immediate conflict zone to include strikes deep inside Georgia on the second day of fighting.
Georgia Reports New Air Attacks at Military Bases - Associated Press
Russia dispatched an armored column into the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia on Friday after Georgia, a staunch US ally, launched a surprise offensive to crush separatists. Witnesses said hundreds of civilians were killed. Fighting reportedly raged well into the night with Georgia's interior ministry saying early Saturday that warplanes attacked three Georgian military bases and key facilities for shipping oil to the West. The fighting, which devastated the capital of Tskhinvali, threatened to ignite a wider war between Georgia and Russia, and escalate tensions between Moscow and Washington.
South Ossetia: Russian Armor in, Refugees Out - Associated Press
Columns of Russian armor crawled up the deep passes of the Caucasus Mountains on Saturday toward the border with South Ossetia in a push to support Russian troops fighting in the Georgian separatist region. For hours, the columns of weapons and support vehicles kicked up squalls of dust in a stark display of Russia's determination to exert its will in what it considers its backyard. Military and other officials at the scene declined to be interviewed, and prevented foreigners from crossing the border. Meanwhile, a stream of refugees arrived in buses from the south, where heavy fighting broke out early Friday.
S. Ossetia Fighting Risks Wider War - Musa Sadulayev, Associated Press
Russia dispatched an armored column into the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia on Friday after Georgia, a staunch US ally, launched a surprise offensive to crush separatists. Witnesses said hundreds of civilians were killed. The fighting, which devastated the capital of Tskhinvali, threatened to ignite a wider war between Georgia and Russia, and escalate tensions between Moscow and Washington. Georgia said it was forced to launch the assault because of rebel attacks; the separatists alleged Georgia violated a cease-fire.
Georgia: In 'State of War' over South Ossetia - Reuters
Russia and small, US-allied Georgia headed toward a wider war Saturday as Russian tanks rumbled into the contested province of South Ossetia and Russian aircraft bombed a Georgian town, escalating a conflict that already has left hundreds dead. Georgia's Foreign Ministry said the country was "in a state of war" and accused Russia of beginning a "massive military aggression." The Georgian parliament approved a state of martial law, mobilizing reservists and ordering government authorities to work round-the-clock. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that Moscow sent troops into South Ossetia to force Georgia into a cease-fire and prevent Georgia from retaking control of its breakaway region after it launched a major offensive there overnight Friday.
Medvedev: Georgia Must Pull Out of S. Ossetia - Sara Hashash, The Times
A pullout of Georgian troops from the conflict zone is the only solution to the South Ossetian crisis, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has told US President George W Bush. Bush earlier today had urged Moscow to halt the bombing immediately saying attacks by Russia outside the war zone of South Ossetia marked a "dangerous escalation" of the crisis. Meanwhile, Georgia’s president Mikail Saakashvili has called for an immediate ceasefire claiming that Russia had launched a full-scale military invasion on his country, widening its offensive to force back Georgian troops seeking control over South Ossetia. Georgia's parliament today approved a state of war across the ex-Soviet country, which Saakashvili decreed would be valid for 15 days.
Bush Calls For Halt in Conflict - Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post
President Bush intervened to try to halt the escalating violence in Georgia, calling on Russia to cease its bombing and insisting that all troops in the conflict stand down. After a day of statements and diplomacy from senior aides, Bush came before reporters Saturday night to urge a cease-fire in Georgia. "The attacks are occurring in regions of Georgia far from the zone of conflict in South Ossetia," he said. "They mark a dangerous escalation in the crisis. The violence is endangering regional peace. Civilian lives have been lost, and others are endangered."
Peace Bid as Ossetia Crisis Rages - BBC News
A delegation of European and US envoys is heading to Georgia as its conflict with Russia over the breakaway South Ossetia region deepens. The envoys hope to broker a truce after three days of fighting which are said to have killed or injured hundreds, and sent thousands fleeing. Russian jets have bombed several towns, including Gori in central Georgia. Russia says it wants Georgian forces to withdraw to the positions they held outside South Ossetia before Thursday. In the absence of independent verification, there are conflicting figures about the casualties suffered on both sides but the numbers appeared to rise sharply on Saturday.
EU, US Back Georgian Call for Truce in S.Ossetia - Reuters
Russia accused Georgia on Saturday of seeking bloody adventures by trying to retake its breakaway region of South Ossetia and defended its own military campaign to stop it. Pro-western Georgia earlier called for a ceasefire after Moscow's bombers widened an offensive to force Tbilisi's troops back out of the region in the Caucasus mountains. "Russia's actions in South Ossetia are totally legitimate," Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, visiting an adjacent region of Russia to which thousands of refugees have fled.
Pentagon, US State Department Monitoring Georgian Situation - AFPS
The Defense Department is closely watching developments in South Ossetia, in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, a senior Pentagon spokesman said here today. News reports cite Russian tanks crossing the border into South Ossetia and of fighting between Georgian troops and rebels in and around Tskhinvali, South Ossetia’s capital city. “We’re monitoring it very closely,” spokesman Bryan Whitman said of the situation during a briefing with Pentagon reporters. Georgia declared its independence from the then-Soviet Union in 1991. However, many South Ossetia residents continued to profess Russian allegiance. Whitman said about 130 US military and civilian personnel are currently located near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, helping train Georgian troops for an upcoming deployment to Iraq. All the Americans are accounted for, and none has been injured, Whitman said. The US State Department is the lead US agency regarding the situation in South Ossetia, Whitman said. The State Department is “in close contact with senior Russian and Georgian officials. We’re urging Moscow to press South Ossetia’s de facto leaders to stop firing,” Gonzalo R. Gallegos, acting deputy spokesman for the State Department, said yesterday during a Washington news conference.
UN Council Meets Again on S. Ossetia - Louis Charbonneau, Reuters
Russian and Georgian envoys hurled accusations at each other at the United Nations on Friday, as a divided Security Council struggled to agree on language calling for an end to the fighting in South Ossetia. Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Georgia was deliberately targeting Russian peacekeepers in the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, where an escalation of fighting in recent hours has stoked fears of all-out war. "The situation is so catastrophic that the International Committee of the Red Cross has asked for a humanitarian corridor," Churkin told the UN Security Council at its second emergency meeting on the crisis in just over 12 hours. He said Georgians were guilty of "ethnic cleansing." In South Ossetia, the separatists' press service reported on its website that Russian armored vehicles had entered the northern edges of the region's capital.
Georgia, Russia Spar Over South Ossetia at OSCE - Associated Press
Russian and Georgian officials at a leading European security organization sparred Friday over who was to blame for the bloodshed in the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia. Georgia's ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Victor Dolidze, accused Russia of "clear, open, military aggression from one OSCE country to another - its neighbor, unfortunately." Vladimir Voronkov, Russia's top delegate to the Vienna-based body, denied any Russian military involvement, claiming that only 500 Russian peacekeepers were in the province. "There are two sides of conflict in this conflict: South Ossetia and Georgia," he said, adding that Moscow would like to "stop the bloodshed."
Red Cross Calls for Humanitarian Corridor in South Ossetia - VOA
The International Committee of the Red Cross is calling for the opening of a humanitarian corridor in South Ossetia to make it possible for medical personnel and ambulances to reach the wounded and sick. Aid agencies report food and other essential goods are in short supply. The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is very concerned about the humanitarian impact of the escalation of violence between Georgia and the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Georgia, which has launched an offensive against rebel strongholds, claims to have surrounded the capital Tskhinvali. Several civilians have reportedly been killed, including Russian peacekeepers based in that city. Red Cross spokeswoman, Anna Nelson, says it is too dangerous for aid workers to move around freely, so it is difficult to get an accurate picture of how many people have been killed and wounded.