VARIOUS: Georgia calls for ceasefire after Russian bombers widen offensive; Russia says only way to end conflict...
- Title: VARIOUS: Georgia calls for ceasefire after Russian bombers widen offensive; Russia says only way to end conflict is for Georgian forces to pull out of South Ossetia
- Date: 10th August 2008
- Summary: (BN12) TBILISI, GEORGIA (AUGUST 9, 2008) (REUTERS) GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI VISITING TWO WOUNDED WOMEN IN HOSPITAL AND SPEAKING TO THEM
- Reuters ID: LVAAOVRWBU4A8Q4V5AL4KUKC6D8M
- Duration: 00:00:21
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- Topics: War / Fighting,International Relations
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None
- Story Text: Georgia called for a ceasefire on Saturday (August 9) after Russian bombers widened an offensive to force back Georgian troops seeking control over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
The call seemed to fall on deaf ears, with Russia's leaders saying Moscow's actions were legitimate and that the only way to end the conflict was for Georgia to pull out of the region.
Russia said it had seized the rebel capital, Tskhinvali, but Georgia denied the claim on the second day of fighting that also threatens oil and gas pipelines seen as crucial in the West.
Russian officials said the death toll now stood at 2,000 and 30,000 refugees from South Ossetia had fled over the border to Russia over the past 36 hours. It said two of its warplanes had been shot down, 13 of its soldiers killed and 70 wounded.
Georgian officials said that on its side, 129 Georgians had been killed and 748 injured.
Georgian television Rustavi 2 has showed pictures of what they say is a Russian fighter jet and its pilots which were downed near the town of Gori.
Rustavi 2 showed two wounded men, who said on camera that they were Russian pilots from the downed jet. Journalists were shown their military IDs.
"The plane was shot down by a ground-to-air missile of the anti-aircraft forces of the Georgian Republic. I was found in the forest with a broken spine and arm and received first aid," one of the men said before being taken away for an operation.
Earlier Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that country's anti-aircraft forces have downed 10 Russian jets, but Russia admits loss of only two planes.
Russia's military action dramatically intensified its long-running stand-off with the pro-Western Georgian leadership that has sparked alarm in the West and led to angry exchanges at the United Nations reminiscent of the Cold War.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Georgia of seeking "bloody adventures" and trying to drag other countries into the military conflict.
"In Georgia and in Russia and the whole world, it is now clear that the Georgian leadership's aspiration to join NATO...is driven by its attempt to drag other nations and peoples into its bloody adventures. From a legal point of view, Russia's actions in South Ossetia are totally legitimate and what's more, absolutely necessary." Putin said during a meeting in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz. Some of the meeting was shown on television.
Putin defended Russia's incursion into South Ossetia and urged Georgia to halt "aggression" against the breakaway region.
Vladikavkaz is in the Russian region of North Ossetia, across the border from South Ossetia. Many people in the region share a common language and culture with their southern neighbours.
Earlier Saakashvili visited wounded citizens in a hospital in Tbilisi.
The injured in Tbilisi's Republic hospital were brought there from Gori where Russian jets carried out up to five raids on mostly military targets around the town on Saturday.
Saakashvili spoke to several female patients, comforting them and saying they would soon go home. He repeated earlier calls for a ceasefire.
"We must stop this madness. We propose to Russia an immediate ceasefire and to start talks. I am appealing to President Medvedev to stop this madness, it's not in the interest of Georgia or of Russia,"
U.S. President George W. Bush said attacks by Russia on neighbouring Georgia outside the conflict zone of South Ossetia marked a "dangerous escalation" of the crisis and urged Moscow to halt the bombing immediately.
"I'm deeply concerned about the situation in Georgia," Bush said at the Olympics.
"The violence is endangering regional peace, civilian lives have been lost and others are in danger. This situation can be resolved peacefully," he added.
He said Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected and called for "an end to the Russian bombings and a return by the parties to the status quo of August the sixth".
Bush earlier urged both sides to halt hostilities and return to their positions before the fighting began earlier this week.
Russia's NATO ambassador said talks with Georgia on ending fighting in South Ossetia could only start when Georgian troops ceased fire and withdrew to the positions they held before the conflict began.
Dmitry Rogozin said that Georgia's treatment of South Ossetia was nothing short of "ethnic cleansing and genocide".
"For now, our troops have re-established control of Tskhinvali and we ask Georgia to do one thing, to come back to the positions where they were before the beginning of this incident," he added, speaking in Brussels.
He said there could be "no consultations" until that precondition had been met.
A combined delegation of officials from the European Union, the United States and NATO will be travelling to Georgia to seek to broker a ceasefire in the conflict, Britain's Defence Secretary Des Browne said on Saturday.
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- Embargoed:25th August 2008 13:00