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Moscow says some 70 Russian soldiers killed in S.Ossetia

RIA Novosti

13/08/2008 17:20 MOSCOW, August 13 (RIA Novosti) - A top Russian military official said on Wednesday that 74 Russian military personnel died during recent fighting with Georgian troops in breakaway South Ossetia.

"At least 74 servicemen were killed, 171 were wounded and 19 are missing in action as of Wednesday morning," said Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the General Staff.

Wednesday was declared a day of mourning in Russia.

Russian officials earlier said about 1,600 civilians were killed and more than 30,000 have fled South Ossetia since Georgia attempted to regain control of the region by launching a large-scale offensive last Friday.

During the subsequent Russian military operation to force Georgian troops out of the de facto independent republic and to reinforce its peacekeepers, Moscow sent some 10,000 troops and several hundred armored vehicles into the area.

Nogovitsyn said figures for Georgian losses were currently unavailable.

Georgia's National Security Council said on Wednesday the country has started talks with Russia on the exchange of military personnel captured during the conflict. The total number of prisoners taken by both sides has not been yet reported.

Nogovitsyn said Russia has made its own proposals on the exchange of prisoners and bodies and was waiting for Georgia's reply.

Georgia and Russia agreed on Tuesday to a modified version of a French-brokered six-point peace plan, which requires an immediate ceasefire and the pullback of forces to their previous positions.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the peace plan would be discussed by EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, and that a legally binding agreement should then be signed. Georgia's territorial integrity and the return of refugees would be the focus of the next stage of talks.

However, Nogovitsyn said Georgia is failing to completely abide by a ceasefire in South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers have to respond to provocative attacks.

"Sporadic sniper attacks are continuing, and although the Russian side is supposed to remain within the boundaries of peacekeeping activity, we must respond to such provocations, as was unambiguously announced by the commander-in-chief," Nogovitsyn said.

Georgia has also reported the continued movement of Russian troops inside its territory. Russia has denied that its troops are moving from the city of Gori in the direction of the Georgian capital.

Russia has meanwhile sent over 1,700 rescue workers and hundreds of medical personal to the devastated South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, the emergencies minister said on Wednesday. Two field hospitals have been set up in the city, and rubble is being cleared and sanitary measures taken to prevent a pandemic.

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