Georgia a 'war criminal' : Russia

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Moscow, Aug 11 (UNI) Russia today said Georgia has committed an act of aggression against civilians in the breakaway region of South Ossetia and for this reason it fell within the category of 'war criminal'.

''We have a working system of international rules 'combatant- non-combatant.' The responsibility should be borne by the party which violates these rules'', deputy chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Col-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn said at a press conference here.

''War on civilians is regarded as the gravest crime and this is precisely what we are witnesses to in the current conflict'', Nogovitsyn stated.

''One who conducts such a war is a 'war criminal'. What we have seen is actual extermination of the indigenous population of a country whose territory is a scene of combat operations'', he said.

Nogovitsyn statement came when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said he had signed an international-brokered proposal for a ceasefire with Russia in their conflict over the breakaway province of South Ossetia.

Saakashvili told reporters that the proposal would be taken to Moscow by the French and Finnish foreign ministers.

''We are trying to stop this as soon as possible'', Saakashvili said.

He also said Georgian troops had downed "18 or 19" Russian warplanes which killed hundreds of Russian troops and repelled a Russian assault on the Georgian city of Gori.

The Georgian President later said in a television broadcast that the conflict was similar to the Balkans war in the 1990s and accused Russia of ethnic cleansing -- a charge the Russians have repeatedly levelled at Georgia.

Saakashvili claimed that Russia had 500 tanks and 25,000 troops inside Georgia.

However, a Russian Defence Ministry spokesman denied that Russian troops had entered the Georgian territory outside of the breakaway regions South Ossetoa and Abkhazia, and said only four planes had been lost.

According to Saakashvili, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of the European Union, would visit the capitals of both Russia and Georgia tomorow in his diplomatic efforts to end the fighting.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb were to arrive in Moscow this evening after meeting the Georgian officials in Tbilisi.

Stubb said they had a proposal which included a "forceful way forward" to a ceasefire and withdrawal plan.

Meanwhile, the director of Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Alexander Bortnikov told President Dmitry Medvedev during a meeting that Georgian security services were very active in South Ossetia and the adjoining regions of Russia, in the run-up to the assault on the unrecognised South Ossetian republic last Friday.

'' We detained nine agents of Georgian secret services who were spying on our defence facilities and engineering terrorist acts, some of which were to be committed inside Russia'',he said adding '' These people are giving confessionary evidence.'' UNI XC JT GC2221

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