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 Russian 58th Moves into South Ossetia [Georgia] - Georgian/Russian Armies Clash in Capitol Over Seperatist Conflict
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Russian 58th Moves into South Ossetia [Georgia] - Georgian/Russian Armies Clash in Capitol - Aug 08, 2008 17:45
Updates as they happen.

BREAKING NEWS: Georgia's Foreign Ministry says that Russian aircraft have bombed Georgian military air bases, inflicting some casualties.
Developing Story, will be updated; read previous story below:
Parts of Russia's58th Army — including 150 tanks and armored vehicles — reportedly weremoving Friday on the capital of South Ossetia after Georgian troopsentered the city in an attempt to crush separatist forces seeking tocontrol the breakaway province.
Kakha Lamaia, a member of Georgia's National Security Council, told Reuters the two countries are "very close" to war, if not already at war.
"If it's not war, then we are very close to it," Lamaia said. "The Russians have invaded Georgia and we are under attack."
President Bushand Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reportedly were discussingthe Georgia crisis after attending the opening of the Beijing Olympicgames. The U.S. has called for an immediate cease-fire between Russiaand Georgia.
Russian Foreign Minister SergeyViktorovich Lavrov told Reuters that he is "receiving reports of ethniccleansing in villages of South Ossetia."
Russiawill cut all air communications with Georgia from midnight on Friday, aspokeswoman for the Russian Transport Ministry told Reuters.
Click here to read Russian President Medvedev's Statement on Georgia Crisis.
Fightingescalated between Georgian and Russian forces escalated earlier in theday with Georgia claiming to have downed four Russian combat warplanes,and Russian planes bombing the Vaziani airbase outside the Georgiancapital of Tblisi. A Georgian interior ministry spokesman said threeGeorgian soldiers were killed in the airbase bombing.
Georgia'sForeign Ministry said that a Russian raid Friday on the Marneuli airbase destroyed several Georgian military aircraft and inflictedunspecified casualties. It said that Russian aircraft also bombedanother base in Bolnisi. Rustavi 2 television reported four people werekilled and five others wounded at the Marneuli air base.
RussianGround Forces spokesman Col. Igor Konashenkov said that 10 Russianpeacekeepers were killed and another 30 wounded durring Georgianshelling of their barracks.
Georgian officials denied firing on the Russian forces.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow was receiving reports that villages in South Ossetia were being ethnically cleansed.
"Weare receiving reports that a policy of ethnic cleansing was beingconducted in villages in South Ossetia, the number of refugees isclimbing, the panic is growing, people are trying to save their lives,"he said during televised remarks in Moscow from Russia's ForeignMinistry.
Click here to view photos.
Georgian troops launched their offensive to regain control over the South Ossetia.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili accused Russia, which has close ties to the separatists, of bombing Georgian territory.
Saakashvili also said it was in the United States' interest to help his country.
ButRussian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the Georgian attack willdraw retaliation and the Defense Ministry pledged to protect SouthOssetians, most of whom have Russian citizenship.
Russia'sChannel 1 television earlier showed a convoy of Russian tanks that itsaid had entered South Ossetia. The report said the convoy is expectedto reach the provincial capital within a few hours.
There has been no immediate comment from Russian officials.
Separatistofficials in South Ossetia said 15 civilians had been killed infighting overnight. Georgian officials said seven civilians werewounded in bombing raids by Russia.
Georgiadeclared a three-hour cease-fire to allow civilians to leaveTskhinvali. Georgia's Interior Ministry spokesman said troops wereobserving the cease-fire, which began at 3 p.m. local time (7 a.m. EDT).
Aspokesman for President Bush said Russia and Georgia should ceasehostilities and hold talks to end the conflict. NATO Secretary GeneralJaap de Hoop Scheffer said he is seriously concerned about the fightingand that the alliance is closely following the situation.
Georgia,which borders the Black Sea between Turkey and Russia, was ruled byMoscow for most of the two centuries preceding the breakup of theSoviet Union. The country has angered Russia by seeking NATO membership— a bid Moscow regards as part of a Western effort to weaken itsinfluence in the region.
Saakashvili long haspledged to restore Tbilisi's rule over South Ossetia and anotherbreakaway province, Abkhazia. Both regions have run their own affairswithout international recognition since splitting from Georgia in theearly 1990s and built up ties with Moscow.
Relationsbetween Georgia and Russia worsened notably this year as Georgia pushedto join NATO and Russia dispatched additional peacekeeper forces toAbkhazia.
The International Committee of the Red Crosssaid it is seeking to open a humanitarian corridor to guarantee safeaccess to Tskhinvali. Maia Kardova, ICRC spokeswoman in Tbilisi, saidmilitary vehicles are being given priority on the main road leading tothe South Ossetia capital and this is making it difficult for rescuevehicles to get through.
Saakashvili urged Russia to immediately stop bombing Georgian territory.
"Georgia will not yield its territory or renounce its freedom," he said.
Asenior Russian diplomat in charge of the South Ossetian conflict, YuriPopov, dismissed the Georgian claims of Russian bombings asmisinformation, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
Russia'sPresident Dmitry Medvedev later chaired a session of his SecurityCouncil in the Kremlin, vowing that Moscow will protect Russiancitizens.
"In accordance with the constitutionand federal law, I, as president of Russia, am obliged to protect livesand dignity of Russian citizens wherever they are located," Medvedevsaid, according to Russian news reports. "We won't allow the death ofour compatriots go unpunished."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

<message edited by Eddie_the_Hated on Aug 08, 2008 17:48>

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