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Georgia says attacks continue despite pledge

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Death toll said to reach 2,000 as Russia's president announces halt in action

TBILISI, Georgia - Russian forces are continuing their offensive despite an order from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to halt the attacks, Georgia officials said Tuesday. Russian officials denied Georgia's claims.Five days of air and land attacks have sent Georgia's army into headlong retreat and left towns and military bases destroyed. More than 2,000 people were reported killed.

Hours before the Russian announcement, Russian forces bombed the crossroads city of Gori and launched an offensive in the part of separatist Abkhazia still under Georgian control, sending in 135 military vehicles — including tanks — and tightening the assault on the beleaguered nation.

Gori was all but deserted late Monday — most remaining residents and Georgian soldiers fled ahead of a feared Russian onslaught.

Tens of thousands flee

In Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's provincial capital, the body of a Georgian soldier lay in the street along with debris and shattered glass. A poster hanging nearby showed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the slogan "Say yes to peace and stability" as South Ossetian separatist fighters launched rockets at a Georgian plane soaring overhead.

The death toll was expected to rise, for large areas of Georgia were too dangerous for journalists to enter. Tens of thousands of terrified residents have fled the fighting — South Ossetians north to Russia, and Georgians west toward the capital of Tbilisi and the country's Black Sea coast.

President Medvedev said on national television that Georgia had been punished enough for its attack on South Ossetia. Georgia launched an offensive late Thursday to regain control over the separatist Georgian province, which has close ties to Russia.

"The aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses. Its military has been disorganized," Medvedev said.

"If there are any emerging hotbeds of resistance or any aggressive actions, you should take steps to destroy them," he ordered his defense minister at a televised Kremlin meeting.

The British oil company BP shut down one of three Georgian pipelines as a precaution. Georgia sits on a strategic oil pipeline carrying Caspian crude to Western markets bypassing Russia, has long been a source of contention between the West and a resurgent Russia, which is seeking to strengthen its role as the dominant energy supplier to the continent.

Second battlefront

Russia's foreign minister called for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to resign and Medvedev said Georgia must pull its troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia — the two Russian-backed breakaway provinces at the heart of the dispute.

Russian forces opened a second battlefront in western Georgia on Monday, moving deep into Georgian territory from the separatist province of Abkhazia. They seized a military base in the town of Senaki and occupied police precincts in the town of Zugdidi.


On Tuesday, an Associated Press reporter counted 135 Russian military vehicles — included tanks, armored personnel carriers and three pieces of artillery — driving through Georgia toward Kodori Gorge. The northern part of the gorge is the only part of the separatist region of Abkhazia still held by Georgian forces, but they have come under attack in recent days.

Russian forces opened the second battlefront in western Georgia on Monday, moving deep into Georgian territory from Abkhazia.

'Annexed country'

Scores of Georgians have fled the area.

"It feels like an annexed country," said Lasha Margiana, the local administrator in one of the villages in Kodori.

People said that many homes were damaged by shelling and that the entire population of the gorge, some 3,000 people, had left.

"We left when the shelling started, we don't have food," said Madlena Guarmiani, one of the refugees, who said they had no time to pack food or belongings.

In central Georgia, Russian troops advanced into Georgia from the other separatist province, South Ossetia, taking positions near Gori on the main east-west highway as terrified civilians. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said his country had effectively been cut in half.

CONTINUED: Television cameraman killed1 | 2 | Next >


                                               Look at the flowers

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Over the past several days, the American media has been relentlessly portraying the Russians as the bad guy in the South Ossetia conflict.

But are the Russians right? Are the Georgians the ones who are really wrong?

When the USSR originally disbanded, South Ossetia and Abkhasia voted to stay with Russia, not Georgia. The voter turnout was around 95% and about 99% of those voters elected to stay with Russia. The United States has tried to undermine that democratic choice ever since then.

We must keep in mind that in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russian troops are very popular. They are seen as the protectors. In fact, Vladimir Putin's picture is more widely displayed than that of the South Ossetian president. The Russians are seen as the only hope of protectoring against a repeat of the ethnic cleansing the Georgians tried before.

Back in 1992, the Western world backed Eduard Shevardnadze's attempts to reassert Georgia's control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. That war was a disaster for Georgia. It left over 300,000 refugees "cleansed" from South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and for Ossetians and Abkhazians their mistreatment by Georgian troops is a very bitter memory.

On Thursday night and into Friday morning, Georgia was the first one to attack. They killed Russian peacemakers and purposely targeted civilians in South Ossetia.


And contrary to Western media reports, Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia said on Sunday that Georgian forces remain in the area, and are shelling apartment blocks in the capital of South Ossetia.

Vladimir Putin said this yesterday about Georgia's actions : "This is full-scale genocide... They have completely lost their minds."

It sounds like Georgia's at fault. After all, they started it.

Edited by slippers


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