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South Ossetia

Georgia withdraws, Russia prepares new attack

Article published on the 2008-08-10 Latest update 2008-08-11 09:24 TU

A destroyed Georgian tank in Tskhinvali, 9 August 2008.(Photo : Reuters)

A destroyed Georgian tank in Tskhinvali, 9 August 2008.
(Photo : Reuters)

After three days of fighting with Russian and South Ossetian rebel forces, Georgia has ordered its troops out of the rebel province and called for a ceasefire and peace talks with Russia. Meanwhile, Russia began bombing Georgian occupied areas of another rebel province, Abkhazia.

Despite the announced withdrawal, the Russian army said Georgian forces were still in the province and that fighting continues.

The announcement of a pullout followed three days of fighting in a Georgian push to take control of the pro-Moscow enclave from separatists, which prompted Russia to pour troops into South Ossetia and launch air strikes inside Georgia on Friday.

Russian news sources say that both Russia and Georgia have agreed to open two humanitarian corridors to allow refugees to be evacuated, even as Russian forces are reported to be massing on the border of Abkhazia in preparation for an offensive.

Elsewhere, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry threatened to prevent Russian warships off Georgia's coast from returning to their base in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol. The United States called the Russian offensive “disproportionate and [a] dangerous escalation of the conflict in South Ossetia”,saying that it could significantly harm bilateral relations.

Silver medalist Natalia Paderina from Russia (L) with Bronze medalist Nino Salukvadze of Georgia.(Photo: AFP)

Silver medalist Natalia Paderina from Russia (L) with Bronze medalist Nino Salukvadze of Georgia.
(Photo: AFP)

In an emotionally charged moment at the Olympic Games in Beijing on Sunday morning, athletes from Russia and Georgia kissed and called for friendship between their peoples.

Following the women’s 10m air pistol shooting event, Natalia Paderina of Russia and Nino Salukvadze of Georgia embraced on the podium after winning the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

“When it comes to sport, we will always remain friends and nothing will come between our friendship,” Salukyadze told the media.

The two countries also assured Olympic organisers that they would not pull out of the Games, even as they are set to face each other in a volleyball match on Wednesday.

“Information is very controlled in Georgia, and sometimes they prefer to not talk about what’s happened. And for that, what’s happened in Beijing is very useful,” correspondent Régis Jonté in Tbilisi said.