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30 Jun, 2007 23:30

Georgia and South Ossetia exchange blame and gunfire

Georgia and the breakaway republic of South Ossetia accused each other of starting trouble on Saturday as settlements on both sides of the boarder came under fire. Several people were wounded in exchanges and tension remains high in the area.

Just after mid-day on Saturday, a shell fired from the mountains seriously injured 17-year-old

Vakhtang Gogidze in his own front garden in Tamarasheni, a Georgian village located directly on the outskirts of the separatist capital Tskhinvali.
His grandmother Tamara is used to gunfire.  Her garden fence is riddled with bullet holes.  But Saturday’s fire fight was more intense than usual.
“My grandson came out to open the doors of the garage when suddenly a shell exploded.  His father rushed out and held the injured boy in his arms,” said Tamara Gogidze.

The student, who was preparing to go to Tbilisi to take university entrance exams, had shrapnel injuries to his head and legs.
South Ossetia has been shaken by shootings in the past three days.  The region broke away from central government control following a conflict in the early 1990s, but Georgia has vowed to get it back.

As well as Vakhtang, two Ossetians were reported injured in Tskhinvali on Saturday.  Each side blames the other for starting the gun battles, and independent observers have yet to confirm the source of the shooting.

“The monitoring group have examined the situation, they have confirmed that a firefight took place, but have not established who started it,” said Yury Vereshchak from the Joint Peacekeeping Forces.

But those who live in Tamarasheni hear shots on a daily basis.

“They normally start shooting in the evening, when it starts getting dark, but today they started earlier,” Vakhtang Kiknadze, local resident.

Vakhtang Gogidze was taken to hospital in the nearby Georgian town of Gori, where doctors say his condition is stable.  Incidents like these are testing to the limit the fragile peace that exists in South Ossetia.
While the opposing sides in this conflict exchange accusations as well as gunfire, it is innocent people who suffer.