Georgia declares official 'state of war'
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Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said his country is officially in a "state of war." France, the holder of the European Union presidency, put forward a plan to end the fighting in South Ossetia, urging both parties to retreat.
Hours after Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili declared the country was officially in a "state of war,” there is growing evidence that violence is spilling over the borders of South Ossetia.
Georgia accuses Russia of launching a full-scale military invasion in the country, with new reports that the conflict has spread to Abkhazia, which, like South Ossetia, is a Russian-backed separatist region of Georgia.
"I have signed a decree on a state of war. Georgia is under a state of total military aggression by the Russian navy, air force, large-scale ground operations," Saakashvili told a televised meeting of his national security council.
Saakashvili has also called for an immediate ceasefire.
The Georgian Parliament approved a decree declaring ‘state of war’ for 15 days starting August 9.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin defended
"From a legal point of view,
Russian warplanes bomb Georgian town
Fierce fighting between Russia and Georgia continued for a second day in the disputed region of South Ossetia.
Two Russian warplanes carried out up to five bombing raids on Saturday around the eastern Georgian town of Gori, 50 km away from the breakaway region of South Ossetia, according to Reuters reporter. He saw at least one bomb hit an apartment block, killing five people.
“Today, the conflict isn’t anymore between Georgia and South Ossetia but between Georgia and Russia since most of the fighting has moved from South Ossetian territory to Georgian territory,” says Alexis Bautzman, the Tbilisi-based editor-in-chief of Diplomatie.
Georgian Television images showed mangled bodies strewn about the street, buildings on fire and injured elderly people
Russia said the death toll in the two-day conflict had hit 1,500 and was rising but Saakashvili denied the Russian claims saying “practically no civilians” were killed.
Meanwhile Georgian artillery fired Saturday on the headquarters of Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.
South Ossetian authorities said heavy fire was hitting residential areas of the regional capital of Tskhinvali, home to an estimated 20, 000 people.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev described on Saturday, the situation in South Ossetia as a "humanitarian catastrophe", Russian news agencies reported.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said hospitals in Tskhinvali were teeming with casualties.
"What is very worrying is that electricity, water and access to other basic servicesare still not possible for the population remaining in Tskhinvali," Maia Kardava, spokesperson for the ICRC in Georgia told FRANCE 24.
On Friday, tanks were seen burning, and women and children ran for cover, hunched over in terror in the city.
Georgian Troops in Iraq redeployed back home
Tbilisi will withdraw its military contingent serving in Iraq within the next three days to help battle South Ossentian seperatist rebels. "The full brigade will go home from Iraq," Colonel Bondo Maisuradze said.
On Friday, Moscow sent troops into the province to defend Russians under fire from a Georgian offensive to regain control over the province that broke away from Tbilisi's control in the early 1990s.
South Ossetia broke from Georgia in the early 1990s. It has since been a constant source of friction between Georgia and Russia, which opposes Tbilisi's aspirations of joining NATO and has de facto supported the separatists although not recognised their independence.
South Ossetia has long sought unification with North Ossetia, which is inhabited by the same Ossetian ethnic group but ended up across the border in Russia after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
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