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Russia calls Georgian actions against S.Ossetia "open aggression"

RIA Novosti

04/07/2008 20:03 MOSCOW, July 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry said Friday after mortar fire hit Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia overnight that Georgia's actions amount to "open aggression".

"Tbilisi's actions point to an open act of aggression against South Ossetia... Moscow believes it is unacceptable when Tbilisi tries to create an illusion of progress on the Abkhaz front and simultaneously commits undisguised acts of aggression against South Ossetia. Such tactics could reduce to zero the prospect of settling both conflicts," the Russian ministry said.

The ministry also called for an immediate meeting of the Joint Control Commission on the conflict settlement.

According to information from Tskhinvali, the capital of the rebel region, the Georgian side opened fire late Thursday using mortars, grenade launchers and small arms to target the South Ossetian capital and two villages, killing one person and wounding three.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Georgia fired on the capital's residential neighborhoods, inflicting injuries upon the population.

The ministry said Georgian planes violated the conflict zone's airspace on numerous occasions during the night, adding that 40 minutes prior to the shelling, "all officers left" the Georgian peacekeeping battalion in Tskhinvali.

However, according to police sources in Georgia's Shida Kartli region, bordering the conflict zone, Georgian police outposts came under fire from South Ossetian villages. Georgia returned fire, after which shelling continued for several minutes.

South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity said that should the Georgian side continue "aggressive actions," the republic will go on the offensive. "If we are led to this, I will give the order... and as the supreme commander-in-chief I will head the units that will storm the hills," he said.

"We ask the Georgian leadership once again to change its mind and not push the situation beyond the point of no return," he said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in another statement Friday that the Georgian units' tactics indicated the action against South Ossetia was planned beforehand.

"On July 3-4, a deputy Russian foreign minister, Grigory Karasin, made a working trip to Tbilisi," the ministry said. "In connection with the events in South Ossetia on July 3-4, the Russian side said the sequence and scale of Georgian units' actions point to a planned nature of this aggressive action."

South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, resulting in a bloody conflict that killed hundreds of people. The pro-Western Georgian leadership has said it is determined to bring the breakaway region, along with the rebel region of Abkhazia, back under Tbilisi's control.

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