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Russia denies reports of troops occupying Georgian villages

RIA Novosti

17/08/2008 14:46 MOSCOW, August 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia rejected on Sunday the Georgian authorities' statements that Russian peacekeepers had allegedly occupied the Georgian villages of Khashuri and Akhalgori.

Georgia launched a major ground and air offensive to seize control of separatist South Ossetia on August 8, prompting Russia to send in tanks and thousands of troops. On August 12, Russia concluded its operation to force Georgia to accept peace.

"Russian peacekeepers have been given no orders to move to these populated areas," a spokesman for Russia's Defense Ministry said.

As a result of Georgia's military offensive last Friday, South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali, was largely destroyed. According to Russian figures, around 1,600 civilians were killed and over 34,000 fled the region, mostly to the neighboring Russian republic of North Ossetia.

The Russian Defense Ministry's spokesman also said he was surprised over Georgia's allegations that Russian helicopters had set fire to forests near the Georgian town of Borzhomi.

"It is understandable to us that the Georgian authorities are ready to blame the Russian side for any natural disasters on the territory of Georgia. We have no relation to forest fires in Borzhomi but are ready to provide assistance in extinguishing them if Georgia makes an official request," the ministry's spokesman said.


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