1,500 killed in South Ossetia: Russia

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Moscow, Aug 9 (UNI) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today said 1,500 people have been killed in South Ossetia since the former Soviet republic of Georgia launced a large-scale military operation against the breakaway republic yesterday.

Mr Lavrov told mediapersons the death toll in the separatist province was continuing to rise.

He also strongly warned Georgia that it should not feel safe from Russian retaliation as more than 30,000 people of South Ossetia had already fled to neighbouring Russia since the Georgian attack.

''Over the past one and a half days, more than 30,000 people have crossed the border,'' Chief of Government Staff Sergei Sobyanin told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today at a meeting to discuss humanitarian aid to the province.

Mr Medvedev said Russian troops started a military operation in South Ossetia to force Georgian troops to cease violence.

Russian jets have carried out strikes on military targets in the central Georgian town of Gori, close to the breakaway region of South Ossetia, Russian TV channels reported.

Russia said it had ''liberated'' the South Ossetian capital -- Tskhinvali.

Earlier, Mr Medvedev said his country was seeking ''to force the Georgian side to peace.'' The comments came after Russian commanders announced they were sending more troops into South Ossetia to support peacekeeping operations.

The Russian Defence Ministry confirmed two of its jets had been shot down over Georgia, although it did not say where.

After days of exchanging heavy fire with the Russian-backed separatists, Georgian forces launched a surprise attack yesterday to regain control of the region, which has had de facto independence since a war in 1992.

In response, Moscow sent armoured units across the border.

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