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23 Aug, 2008 15:14

Arms dump explosions rock South Ossetian capital

A series of strong explosions have shaken the area around the Emergencies Ministry in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. According to reports, the blasts happened at an ammunitions dump storing military equipment confiscated from the Georgians. It co

Fire engines and emergency services are working at the scene.  

Irina Gagloeva from the Committee for Information and the Press in South Ossetia said shells had been exploding for 40 minutes in units of the transport company in the north-west of the capital.

“About 80 shells have exploded. Everywhere is covered in black smoke,” she said.

The spokesperson says it’s hard to approach the area as it’s dangerous. Nearby streets have been evacuated.

“It’s not known what caused these explosions. Allegedly, these shells are the spoils of war left by Georgians. We still don’t know if anybody is inside,” she said.

Russian peacekeepers to patrol security zones in Ossetia

The withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia has been completed in line with the plan aimed at settling the conflict in South Ossetia, according to military officials.

The pact, worked out by the Russian and French presidents, allows peacekeepers to provide additional security measures in the conflict zone.

Asked about the legality of Russia's peacekeeping presence in the buffer areas at a news conference on Saturday, Russia's Deputy Chief of General Staff Anatoly Nogovitsyn quoted a statement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“These additional measures to provide security would mean patrols by Russian peacekeeping forces in the areas specified by the existing agreements along with the withdrawal of the Russian forces to their positions as they were on August 7, before the start of the war,” he quoted Sarkozy as saying.

Nogovitsyn said this confirms the legitimacy of Russia's patrols of the buffer areas.

According to the Deputy Chief of General Staff, Russia has set up 18 peacekeeping posts in security zones in South Ossetia and would build as many in Abkhazia “in order to deter looters and the transportation of arms and ammunition.”

Russian troops to patrol Georgian port

A Russian peacekeeping contingent will control the Georgian port of Poti in line with the six-principle agreement, said Nogovitsyn.

“These patrols were envisaged in the international agreement,” he said. “Poti is outside the security zone, but that does not mean we will sit behind a fence watching them riding around in Hummers,” he added.

Meanwhile, a Russian war vessel has returned to its base in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol. The country's Black Sea Fleet flagship “Moskva” led the flotilla sent on a peacekeeping mission off the coast of Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia.

The ship has been welcomed home by Sevastopol residents.

The “Moskva” is the third ship to return to its base, following a cruiser and a mine-sweeper. Other vessels continue to maintain security off the Abkhazian coast.

Renewed conflict fears

Georgia is intent on achieving territorial integrity at any cost, and may be planning another attack on one of its two breakaway republics, said Nogovitsyn.

“The potential of the Georgian armed forces is being restored only for a new aggression. In its desire to resolve the territorial problem at any cost, it has in fact declared preparations for the third conflict, as they [the Georgian leadership] apparently find the previous two not enough,” he added.

The local population say they fear that Georgia might repeat its aggression in the region. They also say they hope Russian troops will stay in the area to shield them from any possible attacks.