Welcome to the new Soviet expansionism:
BREAKING NEWS: The European Union says it is working on a cease-fire with Georgia and South Ossetia separatists to end violent conflict.
Developing Story, will be updated; read previous story below:
Parts of Russia’s 58th Army — including 150 tanks and armored vehicles — reportedly were moving Friday on the capital of South Ossetia after Georgian troops entered the city in an attempt to crush separatist forces seeking to control the breakaway province.
Kakha Lamaia, a member of Georgia’s National Security Council, told Reuters the two countries are “very close” to war, if not already at war.
“If it’s not war, then we are very close to it,” Lamaia said. “The Russians have invaded Georgia and we are under attack.”
President Bush and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reportedly were discussing the Georgia crisis after attending the opening of the Beijing Olympic games. The U.S. has called for an immediate cease-fire between Russia and Georgia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov told Reuters that he is “receiving reports of ethnic cleansing in villages of South Ossetia.”
Fighting escalated between Georgian and Russian forces escalated earlier in the day with Georgia claiming to have downed four Russian combat warplanes, and Russian planes bombing Georgian military air bases outside the capital of Tblisi. A Georgian interior ministry spokesman said three Georgian soldiers were killed Friday in a bombing on the Vaziani airbase.
Georgia’s Foreign Ministry said that a Russian raid Friday on the Marneuli air base destroyed several Georgian military aircraft and inflicted unspecified casualties. It said that Russian aircraft also bombed another base in Bolnisi. Rustavi 2 television reported four people were killed and five others wounded at the Marneuli air base.
Russian Ground Forces spokesman Col. Igor Konashenkov said that 10 Russian peacekeepers were killed and another 30 wounded durring Georgian shelling of their barracks.
Georgian officials denied firing on the Russian forces.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow was receiving reports that villages in South Ossetia were being ethnically cleansed.
“We are receiving reports that a policy of ethnic cleansing was being conducted in villages in South Ossetia, the number of refugees is climbing, the panic is growing, people are trying to save their lives,” he said during televised remarks in Moscow from Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
Georgian troops launched their offensive to regain control over the South Ossetia.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili accused Russia, which has close ties to the separatists, of bombing Georgian territory.
Saakashvili also said it was in the United States’ interest to help his country.
But Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the Georgian attack will draw retaliation and the Defense Ministry pledged to protect South Ossetians, most of whom have Russian citizenship.
……Georgia, which borders the Black Sea between Turkey and Russia, was ruled by Moscow for most of the two centuries preceding the breakup of the Soviet Union. The country has angered Russia by seeking NATO membership — a bid Moscow regards as part of a Western effort to weaken its influence in the region.
Saakashvili long has pledged to restore Tbilisi’s rule over South Ossetia and another breakaway province, Abkhazia. Both regions have run their own affairs without international recognition since splitting from Georgia in the early 1990s and built up ties with Moscow.
Notice how Putin still has his bloody hands all over this, even though he’s supposed to be relinquishing power to his (hand picked) successor, Dmitry Medvedev?