Russia continues air raids despite Georgia's withdrawal from South Ossetia

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Moscow, Aug 11, : Despite its withdrawal from South Ossetia, Georgia insists that Russia has continued air raids deep inside its territory, including its Capital Tbilisi and along its coastline. Moscow, on the other hand, rejected Tbilisi's announcement that it had called a ceasefire and wanted talks.

Jets bombed targets near Tbilisi, including the airport, and Russia said its warships had sunk a Georgian boat that approached and tried to attack, the BBC reported.

The airport was hit only a few hours before French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb arrived on a peace mission.

According to the Georgian Interior Ministry, the city Gori is under massive attack from Russian artillery and planes and ground forces are preparing for an assault.

Gori, located about 65km northwest of Tbilisi, is just south of the border with the rebel region of South Ossetia, which has seen fierce fighting between Russian and Georgian forces in recent days. It is the largest Georgian town close to the region and an important strategic link between eastern and western Georgia.

Earlier, Russia took control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, forcing Georgian troops to withdraw.

Georgian forces had observed a ceasefire since 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, but had still been bombed by Russian planes. The government had been trying all day to contact Russia to discuss a ceasefire, the report quoted Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as saying.

Meanwhile, the US administration has expressed strong support for Georgia. At a meeting on the sidelines of the Olympic Games in Beijing on Friday, US President George W Bush said that he told Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that this violence was unacceptable and all troops should return to their positions, prior to the latest unrest that began on August 6.

US Vice President Dick Cheney said the events in Georgia would have serious consequences on Russia's relations with the United States.

As many as 2,000 people may have been killed and 30,000 made homeless as the chaotic conflict between Georgian and Russian forces in the pro-Moscow enclave of South Ossetia on Saturday. While also calling for a ceasefire, Georgian parliament has approved a state of war across the country for the next 15 days.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had said that there would be no talks until Georgian troops left the conflict zone.

The situation on the ground in South Ossetia, most of whose population are ethnic Russians, remained highly confused.

Based on Russian and South Ossetian official estimates, the death toll on the South Ossetian side was at least 1,400. Moscow maintained all but a few of the dead were civilians. Blaming Georgia of genocide against the South Ossetian people, Putin defended Moscow's military action to intervene directly, adding that the conflict has created at least 34,000 refugees. The conflict began when Russian troops poured into South Ossetia on Friday, hours after Georgia launched an offensive aimed at restoring control over the separatist province.

ANI

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