Despite fears that the violence in South Ossetia could spread to other regions in the Caucuses, the UN failed to issue a statement calling for a ceasefire to the fighting in the breakaway Georgian enclave.
Georgian troops shell South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali
As bombs rocked Tblisi early Saturday morning and the fighting between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia intensified to the brink of a full-fledged war, UN diplomats engaged in a bitter exchange of accusations.
Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Georgia was deliberately targeting Russian peacekeepers in the region of South Ossetia, where escalating violence stoked fears of an all-out war.
Churkin said Tbilisi was entirely to blame for the escalation and was continuing "its treacherous attacks" on South Ossetia "with the connivance of a number of Security Council members."
A South Ossetian home is destroyed by a Georgian strike.
"A humanitarian catastrophe is in the offing," he added as he accused Georgia of "gross violations of humanitarian law," including reports of ethnic cleansing and attacks on civilians.
Georgian ambassador Irakli Alasania rejected Churkin's charges, telling the 15-nation council that Tbilisi was merely defending itself against Russian aggression. He said Russia was bombing civilian targets and infrastructure in Georgia.
"Georgian troops are not targeting peacekeepers," he said. Turning directly to Churkin, he asked, "Are you ready to stop the bombers in the air?"
Demands for Russia withdrawal
Asked about reports that Russian fighter jets bombed a container tank and civilian infrastructure in the Georgian port of Poti, Churkin said: "I don't have this information."
A fighter jet drops munitions near the Georgian town of Gori.
Alasania demanded the Russian Federation "immediately terminate aerial bombardments, immediately pull out the occupying forces, and negotiate cease-fire." He said President Mikheil Saakashvili was ready for direct peace talks with the Russians.
But Churkin made clear that Russia would never abandon the region. "Historically Russia was and will remain the guarantor of the security of the people of the Caucuses," he said.
UN fails to call for ceasefire
In its second emergency meeting on the South Ossetia crisis within 12 hours, the UN on Friday failed to produce the much hoped for statement calling for an immediate truce.
At Georgia's request, the 15-member council convened for its second emergency meeting on the crisis within 12 hours to try to defuse the mounting tension. But the council could not agree on the language for a statement calling for a ceasefire.
Map of Georgia and its enclaves South Ossetia and Abkhazia
Belgian Ambassador Jan Grauls, who holds the council's rotating presidency, said council members were unable to reach an agreement on the wording of an appeal and would likely meet again on Saturday with the aim of issuing a statement backed by all 15 member states.
"Some members of the council need more time ...This negotiation has not come to a halt tonight and will be resumed tomorrow (Saturday)," Grauls told reporters as he emerged from hours of closed-door consultations.
"The expectation around the world is for a ceasefire, for an end to use of (Russian) aerial bombing, missile attacks, use of combat forces," US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters. "The time has come to cease these attacks."
Diplomats said a Belgian-drafted compromise statement also urges the warring sides to "show restraint and to refrain from any further acts of violence or force," calls for respect by the parties of past accords and for the provision of humanitarian aid to the victims.