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Europe

Russian Forces Target Sites Near Georgian Capital

Georgian and Russian forces are engaged in fierce clashes in South Ossetia. Officials in Tbilisi have said they will declare a state of emergency after Russian forces reportedly bombed sites near the Georgian capital.

Russian armored vehicles rolled into the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia Aug. 8.

Russian armored vehicles rolled into the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia Aug. 8.

Russian forces battled Georgian troops in South Ossetia into the early hours Saturday in an escalating conflict that has reportedly killed hundreds and threatens to engulf the entire region.

Russia's defense ministry said Saturday that three of its peacekeeping troops were killed in a Georgian artillery attack overnight, bringing to 15 the total number killed.

Twenty-two wounded peacekeepers were evacuated from the region's capital Tskhinvali overnight, bringing the total number of wounded to 70, another ground forces spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said Saturday, in comments broadcast on Russian television.

Both sides ignored pleas from world leaders for calm as Moscow and Tbilisi blamed each other for the fighting in South Ossetia which began after several days of skirmishes.

Intense fighting reportedly raged in South Ossetia throughout the night on Aug. 8 and into the morning hours. Georgia's interior ministry reported Russian air attacks on three military bases near the capital and key facilities for shipping oil to the West.

Kämpfe in Südossetien Flüchtlinge Screenshot

Russian NTV channel films Ossetian civilians fleeing the South Ossetian capital under the heavy fire of the Georgian army

Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said the Vaziani military base on the outskirts of the Georgian capital was bombed by warplanes early Saturday and that bombs fell in the area of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. He also said two other Georgian military bases were hit and that warplanes bombed the Black Sea port city of Poti, which has a sizable oil shipment facility.

There were no initial details about casualties or damage. Uiashvili said the destruction was significant and that further details would be available in the morning.

State of emergency for Georgia

Konflikt in Südossetien Kampfjet

A fighter jet drops munitions near the Georgian town of Gori, Aug. 8.

A top Georgian official said President Mikheil Saakshivili would declare a state of emergency within a few hours, a move that would give him a free hand to manage the conflict.

The Secretary of Georgia's National Security Council Alexander Lomaia said that Saakashvili and other officials had been evacuated from the government buildings in Tbilisi to a secure location.

"Over the past two hours, Russian aviation has carried out flights on economic and civilian infrastructure targets," Lomaia said. "There has been an attack on the port of Poti and on a railway junction and aerodrome in Senaki."

Continued bombing in South Ossetia

The Russian military in South Ossetia reported that Georgian troops had renewed artillery fire overnight into Tskhinvali, the capital of the Russian-supported Caucasus province.

The latest bombardment struck mostly in residential areas, the Russians alleged.

Georgia Builds up troops in Abkhazia

Scene of destruction in a village in South Ossetia after a Georgian attack.

Georgian forces bomb sites in South Ossetia on Aug. 8.

Meanwhile, Georgia bolstered its troops on the border to separatist Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian province, according to a top Abkhaz official.

The Interfax news agency quoted the official on Saturday as having seen that Georgia had "significantly increased its military presence on the border with Abkhazia over the past 24 hours.

"We are expecting provocations from the Georgian side," he said.

Georgia has vowed to retake both provinces under its control. Sporadic shootings are frequent along the unofficial border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia but the region, located on the Black Sea, has so far not been affected by the Georgian offensive in South Ossetia.

Karte Kaukasus Georgien mit den Teilrepubliken Abchasien und Südossetien englisch

UN Security Council postpones bid for ceasefire

The United Nations Security Council put off until Saturday efforts to agree on a call for an immediate ceasefire in the worsening conflict its president said Friday.

"Some members need more time," Belgium's UN envoy Jan Grauls, who chairs the council this month, told reporters. "Negotiations will be resumed tomorrow."

The meeting was the second emergency session to broker a ceasefire within 12 hours.

International diplomacy required

Envoys from the US, EU and Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were being deployed to Georgia to seek an end to the fighting.

"The United States calls for an immediate ceasefire to the armed conflict in Georgia's region of South Ossetia," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.

"We call on Russia to cease attacks on Georgia by aircraft and missiles, respect Georgia's territorial integrity, and withdraw its ground combat forces from Georgian soil," she added.

The United States was working actively with its European allies to launch international mediation to end the crisis, Rice said, adding that senior US officials have spoken with the parties in the conflict.

"We underscore the international community's support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, as articulated in numerous UN Security Council resolutions," she said.

The EU presidency said it was in contact with all protagonists and working to secure a ceasefire "so as to avoid an extension of the conflict."

The EU "calls on all parties to cease hostilities and to resume, without delay, so as to secure a political solution to the crisis, which respects Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity," it said.

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