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South Ossetia alleges large-scale Georgian troop border movements

RIA Novosti

07/08/2008 19:15 TSKHINVALI/TBILISI, August 7 (RIA Novosti) - Georgian troops are heading in large numbers toward South Ossetia, the head of the breakaway republic's Security Council said on Thursday.

"Numerous military units are heading toward the [de facto South Ossetian] border," Anatoly Barankevich said.

The reports were dismissed by Shota Khizanishvili, a senior Georgian police officer. He also said that two Georgian peacekeepers were wounded earlier in the day by a South Ossetian bombardment of the Georgian village of Avnevi.

He said that the peacekeepers' armored personnel carrier was blown up in the attack. He also added that a Georgian cellular phone tower had been destroyed.

Sporadic shelling and skirmishes have continued between Georgia and South Ossetia throughout the week. Six South Ossetians were killed and another 15 wounded in a Georgian attack on the night of August 2. Tskhinvali said 14 people were wounded in heavy shelling last night.

Georgia has also accused South Ossetia of attacks on border villages and of provoking confrontations.

Barankevich also said tanks, infantry and armored personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery mounts, howitzers and over 1,000 military personnel were moving toward the South Ossetian border.

He also called on the Russian authorities and all "sane forces" in Georgia to put a halt to the "mayhem."

Meanwhile, Yury Popov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's envoy and a Russian co-chairman of the Joint Control Commission, has arrived in Tskhinvali for talks with peacekeepers and South Ossetian authorities.

"I have arrived in Tskhinvali, and am now entering the peacekeeping headquarters, where I have an appointment with the peacekeeping commander, General Marat Kulakhmetov. I am also likely to hold talks with South Ossetian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Chochiyev," Popov said on the phone.

He said Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili had already held talks with Kulakhmetov in the South Ossetian capital.

Arrangements were made on Tuesday for direct talks on Thursday between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali with Russia's mediation. However, Chochiyev said on Wednesday he refused to hold talks with Yakobashvili, insisting that the JCC hold a full-fledged meeting on Saturday.

Georgia has rejected the Joint Control Commission as "outdated," and says the commission favors the South Ossetian leadership.

South Ossetia and another Georgian breakaway republic, Abkhazia, broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, gaining de facto independence after bloody conflicts with Tbilisi.

Georgia has pledged to bring the two tiny republics back under central control and has accused Russia of trying to annex the regions.

NATO and the EU Council of Ministers have called on all the sides in the conflict to avoid the use of force, to calm tensions, and seek a peaceful solution through negotiations.

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