Russia urges Georgia to sign ceasefire deal with rebel regions
Russia is concerned over the escalation of violence in South Ossetia and is urging the international community to press Georgia to sign a ceasefire deal with its breakaway regions, Russia's foreign minister said on Friday.
According to confirmed reports, an alleged Georgian attack on South Ossetia's capital of Tskhinvali left one dead and three injured late last night, Igor Alborov, a deputy defense and emergencies minister in Georgia's breakaway republic said, reported RIA Novosti.
"We...want the international community to take urgent steps in both conflicts with South-Ossetia and Abkhazia to persuade Tbilisi to sign a ceasefire agreement," Sergei Lavrov told the press.
Reports early on Friday said three people had died and another 11 were injured in an attack on Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, and the villages of Ubiat and Dmenis on Thursday night.
"According to confirmed reports, a South Ossetian was killed in a mortar attack on the village of Ubiat," Alborov said adding that a security officer and two civilians were injured.
Vladimir Ivanov, an aide to the commander of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces in the conflict zone, said seven unidentified planes were observed above Tskhinvali during the attack.
South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity, who threatened earlier in the day to use military hardware if the incident repeats, also urged Georgia and its president Mikheil Saakashvili to prevent a new conflict in the area.
"We are doing everything to maintain stability in the region, not to take it to a tragic point, when it will be hard to change anything... We do not want this war, and we are repeatedly requesting that Georgia withdraw all these units deployed illegally in the republic of South Ossetia," Kokoity told the Vesti-24 television channel.
He described Saakashvili's policy as "short-sighted" and warned that the consequences of a potential war would be appalling mostly for Georgia itself.
The Russian foreign minister also expressed bewilderment that "reconciliatory, constructive signals" from Abkhazia were accompanied by an escalation of tension in South Ossetia.
South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. A bloody conflict that followed killed hundreds of people. The pro-Western Georgian leadership has said it is determined to bring the breakaway region, along with the rebel region of Abkhazia, back under central control.
A joint commission co-chaired by officials from Russia, Georgia, and North and South Ossetias has been involved in conflict resolution negotiations. However, Tbilisi has indicated that it doubts results can be achieved in the current format.
Relations between Russia and Georgia have been strained since Russia stepped up support for the breakaway Georgian republics in April. Saakashvili's pro-Western government has said it is determined to bring the rebel regions back under its control, while Moscow says Tbilisi's policies could lead to new bloodshed.