Medvedev, Bush discuss S Ossetian crisis on telephone

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Moscow, Aug 9 (UNI) Russia's ongoing military operation in Georgia's breakaway Republic of South Ossetia was aimed at forcing Tbilisi to accept peace, President Dmitry Medvedev said today in a telephone conversation with his US counterpart George W Bush.

Bush's phone conversation with Medvedev came after the US leader called on Russia to stop bombing targets in Georgia and voiced concern, in a statement in Beijing, over the escalating violence.

''Acting within our peacekeeping mission, and in line with the mandate issued by the international community, Russia is engaged in the task of forcing the Georgian side to accept peace, while defending the lives and property of its citizens, as is required under the Constitution and laws of the Russian Federation, and the legal standards of any civilized country'', the Kremlin press service quoted Medvedev as saying.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic in the Caucasus Region, launched a major ground and air offensive to seize control of South Ossetia yesterday, prompting Russia to send in tanks and hundreds of troops.

Georgia imposed martial law today after Russian warplanes launched strikes on military bases.

Russia today said 12 of its servicemen had been killed and 2,000 civilians in South Ossetia have lost their lives.

About 30,000 refugees have crossed the border into Russia to escape the violence since yesterday.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told the Vesti-24 TV channel that Moscow may ask the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights to investigate war crimes committed by Georgia.

''I do not rule out that the Hague and Strasbourg courts and institutions in other cities will be involved in investigating these crimes, and this inhuman drama that has been played out,'' Karasin said.

Russian peacekeepers ''were killed by their own Georgian partners in the peacekeeping forces,''he said.

''There is a Russian battalion, an Ossetian battalion, and a Georgian battalion... and all of a sudden the Georgians, Georgian peacekeepers, begin shooting their Russian colleagues. This is of course a war crime,''Karasin said.

UNI XC JT KN2143

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