Russia launches ''genocide'' probe over S Ossetia events

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Moscow, Aug 14 (UNI) Russian General Prosecutor's Office (GPO) today said top investigators have opened a criminal case on charges of genocide in connection with recent events in South Ossetia, the breakaway region of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

The deputy chairman of the Investigation Committee Igor Komissarov told RIA Novosti news agency the Investigation Committee at the GPO ''initiated a genocide probe based on reports of actions committed by Georgian troops aimed at murdering Russian citizens-ethnic Ossetians-living in South Ossetia.'' Russia has accused Georgia of committing ''genocide'' by launching an offensive last Friday to regain control of South Ossetia.

Russia has also called for an international war crimes trial for the Georgian leadership, which Moscow says is responsible for massive loss of life in South Ossetia. The vast majority of South Ossetians hold Russian passports.

Around 1,600 civilians died in the Georgian attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, according to Russia.

Georgia also filed a lawsuit against Russia at the International Court of Justice on Tuesday over alleged ethnic cleansing.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today said Moscow could increase its peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia.

''This issue needs to be coordinated by the sides, primarily South Ossetia. Agreements are in place, figures on approved limits for peacekeeping numbers in South Ossetia exist and these figures include the possibility of increasing Russia's peacekeeping presence,'' Mr Lavrov said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

He also said South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia, have said they would continue to support Russia's presence on their territory.

The Foreign Minister said Moscow would back deploying additional observers in the conflict zones and both South Ossetia and Abkhazia were open to cooperation and ready to consider an increase in the number of international peacekeepers in the region.

Russian peacekeepers have been stationed in Georgia's separatist regions since the 1990s, when Georgia lost control of the regions following bloody conflicts that ended in de facto independence for both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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