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6 Aug, 2008 06:44

‘Georgian snipers are attacking us’ – Ossetian official

There are reports of gunfire in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia. Officials from the separatist republic say Georgian troops have been using sniper and machine-gun fire to target a key road and two South Osset

They have also accused the Georgians of trying to occupy a strategic hill in the region to be able to take control of the area.

The South Ossetians have vowed to re-take the heights in response to what they say is Georgian aggression.

Since the beginning of August, the situation in the conflict zone has intensified.

Around three thousand people have been evacuated from villages following last week's artillery exchanges.

Six people have been killed and thirteen injured in sniper and mortar fire between the two sides.

Irina Glagoleva from the South Ossetian Press and Information Committee told RT that “Georgian snipers have started firing on a road in the Znaur region and villages alongside”, she said.
“The Ossetian side has decided to counter-attack. We are planning to take some drastic measures too suppress the snipers who are threatening the safety of the residents,” Glagoleva said by phone.

The Georgian side has yet to respond to the accusation.

Yesterday, the Co-chairman of Joint Control Commission for Georgian-Ossetian Conflict Resolution (JCC), Yury Popov, said the key task is “to find ways of preventing what happened on August 1, and on July 4 – when Tskhinvali came under a mortar attack – from happening again”.

He also said diplomatic steps were needed to settle the dispute. According to Popov, “The sides have agreed with our mediation to hold a high-level meeting in Tskhinvali on Thursday, August 7”.

Georgia and South Ossetia have traded accusations claiming their police posts were shelled overnight. There are no reports of any casualties.

According to the president of the unrecognized republic, Eduard Kokoyti, Georgia is acting provocatively to drive Russia out of peace talks aimed at easing tensions between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali.

“It is sad but Georgia, under the instruction of its western partners, is doing all it can to disrupt the current diplomatic talks but also the peacekeeping efforts. Georgian terror groups have infiltrated South Ossetia to spread fear and chaos,” he said.   

“This all shows that Saakashvili’s regime has chosen to go down the path of state terror towards its breakaway republics,” Kokoity added.  

At a news conference in Moscow, the South Ossetian envoy to Russia, Dmitry Medoyev, said the situation had significantly worsened since last month's visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“Georgian troops that took part in NATO exercises in the region launched artillery fire on the South Ossetian capital on August 1, killing six people. There is a direct connection between the exercises of NATO troops and the latest attacks on us. And there can’t be two opinions about it,” he said.