Saturday, August 09, 2008

Georgia Declares State of War, August 9, 2008

Georgia on Saturday declared a state of war as Russia sent more troops and hundreds of tanks into the breakaway province of South Ossetia.

President Bush pressed Russia and Georgia to immediately end the fighting.

"The United States is working with our European partners to launch international mediation, and with the parties to restart their dialogue. Russia needs to support these efforts so that peace can be restored as quickly as possible," Bush said in Beijing.

Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili said that he supported a stand-down.

Georgia launched a major offensive Friday to retake control of breakaway South Ossetia. Russia, which has close ties to the province and posts peacekeepers there, responded by sending in armed convoys and military combat aircraft.

The air and artillery bombardment left the provincial capital without water, food, electricity and gas. Civilians crawled out of basements hiding places into the streets as fighting eased, looking for supplies.

As part of Saakashvili's proposed a cease-fire, Georgian troops were pulled out of Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, and had been ordered to stop responding to Russian shelling, said Alexander Lomaia, secretary of his Security Council.

Russia did not immediately respond to Saakashvili's proposal. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had said earlier that Moscow sent troops into South Ossetia to force Georgia into a cease-fire.

Lomaia said that there had been direct fighting between Russian and Georgian soldiers on the streets of Tskhinvali. He estimated that Russia sent 2,500 troops into Georgia. The Russian military has not said how many of its troops were deployed.

Russian military aircraft also bombed the Georgian town of Gori on Saturday.

Georgia Declares State of War : NPR

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