Russian troops take control of South Ossetian capital (Second Lead)

August 9th, 2008 - 4:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Aug 9 (Xinhua) The Russian army Saturday took control of the capital of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia from Georgian forces, media reports said quoting the commander of the ground forces. “Tactical groups have completely liberated Tskhinvali (capital of South Ossetia) from the Georgian military,” General Vladimir Boldyrev was quoted as saying by the agencies.

Earlier in the day, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the country’s troops have started a military operation in South Ossetia to force Georgian troops to a ceasefire.

The Russian army will further push Georgian units beyond the zone of peacekeepers’ responsibility, according to Boldyrev.

The long-standing conflict between Georgia and its rebel region South Ossetia worsened on Aug 1-2, when South Ossetian authorities accused Georgian forces of shelling Tskhinvali.

Six people were killed and 15 injured in the shelling.

Georgian armed forces traded gunfire with militants of South Ossetia near Tskhinvali overnight Thursday into Friday, and South Ossetian authorities said the number of fatalities is estimated at over 1,600.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in a televised address Friday that Georgian troops had fully control over the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, as well as all districts and residential areas in the region except the Java district.

South Ossetia, along with another province Abkhazia, broke away from Georgia in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But their self-proclaimed independence has not been internationally recognised.

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