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Russia urges Georgia, S. Ossetia to stop violence in conflict

RIA Novosti

02/08/2008 14:17 MOSCOW, August 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry called on Saturday upon Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia to show restraint and search for ways to settle the conflict without violence.

At least six people have been killed and 15 wounded late Friday-early Saturday in a series of gunfights along the border between Georgia and South Ossetia. Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone said the incidents had been provoked by Georgia.

"Russia is seriously concerned over the escalation of tensions in the zone of the Georgian-S. Ossetian conflict and is taking emergency steps to prevent further violence between the conflicting sides," the ministry said in a statement.

"Russia urges Tbilisi and Tskhinvali to show restraint and willingness to search for ways to resolve the crisis," the statement said.

Meanwhile, South Ossetia put its troops on high alert and said it may declare general mobilization if Georgian border provocations continued. Tskhinvali has already started the evacuation of the residents from regions bordering on Georgia to North Ossetia, which is part of Russia.

The South Ossetian government held an emergency meeting on Saturday to analyze the current situation in the Georgia-S. Ossetia conflict zone.

"The meeting discussed a possible mobilization and the measures to ensure the safety of local residents," S. Ossetia's Interior Minister Mikhail Mindzayev said. "If Georgia continues its provocations our republic will respond with all available forces and means."

South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Hundreds died in the bloody conflict that followed.

The pro-Western Georgian leadership has said it is determined to bring the region, along with another breakaway republic, Abkhazia, back under central control.

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