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4 Aug, 2008 23:30

Locals flee South Ossetian bloodshed

More than 1.500 people are being evacuated from the breakaway republic of South Ossetia after the latest artillery exchange with Georgia. The violence claimed the lives of six people and 13 others were injured as tension

The evacuation started on Sunday after the night time shelling of the breakaway region.

The republics Interior Ministry says Georgian snipers are continuing to shoot into its territory.
Latest reports suggest the Georgian army has moved two mortar battalions and a howitzer division close to Ossetian villages.
Boris Chochiev, South Ossetian Deputy Prime Minister, said: “Having in mind these war preparations, we decided to evacuate children and women until we are guaranteed that the Georgian side changes its politics and returns to the negotiation table.”
In the meantime Georgia denies any link to what's going on, but promises to stay calm in the conflict zone.
Temur Yakobashvili, Georgia's Reintegration Minister, said: “The Georgian side is not planning any military assault and we don't see any reason for evacuation or anything like that. We are reaffirming our readiness to resume direct talks, without any preconditions.”
Some officials, including Kakha Lomaia, Secretary of the Georgian Security Council, continue to blame Moscow for provoking the situation in South Ossetia
“We believe that common sense will prevail in Russia and the Russian Federation Government will not allow it's puppets in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to escalate the situation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russian officials are drawing international attention to the conflict.
“Russia has already urged Tbilisi to take a responsible approach and it also counts on constructive cooperation from Washington.”
South Ossetia declared independence after the Soviet Union collapsed in the 90s, but Georgia rejected the move and an armed conflict ensued.  

In 1994 a peace agreement was signed and a joint peacekeeping force, consisting of troops from South Ossetia, Georgia and Russia, was deployed in the region. After recent developments, the Russian contingent is now on the highest state of alert.