South Ossetia tense after shelling

Russia says Georgian army's shelling of main city is "open act of aggression".

    South Ossetia ordered its forces to mobilise after the city Tskhinvali was shelled [AFP]

    Helena Bedwell, a journalist based in Georgia's capital Tbilisi, told Al Jazeera that military action was called off earlier on Friday, but both sides were still blaming each other for starting the fighting.
     
    "The Georgian side, which is still on high military alert, blames criminal gangs for starting the shooting and say they had no choice but to respond," she said.
     
    "They also suspect Russian peacekeepers of some role, who they say are on the side of South Ossetia."

    Georgia wants Russia removed from the region and replaced with international peacekeepers, who "would not be biased", Bedwell said.

    'Open aggression'

    In a statement released on Friday, the Russian foreign ministry said: "The actions of Tbilisi show that an open act of aggression has been committed against South Ossetia."
     
    Russian news agencies also quoted the head of Russia's peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia as saying more soldiers could be deployed there if the tension worsens.

    South Ossetia has not yet gained international recognition since it drove out Georgian government forces in 1992.

    The rising tensions in South Ossetia come as Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia, continues to assert its independence from Tblisi.

    Both regions have formal ties with Russia, which contends that Georgia is preparing to take control of the separatist areas by force.

    Tblisi accuses Moscow of trying to absorb both regions into Russia, in an attempt to thwart its attempts to join the Nato military alliance.

    Russia's foreign minister has called on Georgia not to use violence, according to a report by the Interfax news agency.

    "We are seriously concerned by the latest events in South Ossetia," Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying, during a visit to Turkmenistan.

    "We must persuade Tbilisi to sign a legally binding document guaranteeing non-aggression."

    On Thursday, an explosion killed a police colonel in South Ossetia and authorities there said Georgia's secret services were behind the killing.

    In a separate incident on Thursday, gunmen opened fire on Dmitry Sanakoyev, who is recognised by Georgia as South Ossetia's leader. He escaped the attack unhurt.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    Heron Gate mass eviction: 'We never expected this in Canada'

    Hundreds face mass eviction in Canada's capital

    About 150 homes in one of Ottawa's most diverse and affordable communities are expected to be torn down in coming months

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    In 1959, a year before Nigeria's independence, a 23-year-old student helped colour the country's identity.