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2 Aug, 2008 16:46

Russia accuses Georgia of trying to discredit peacekeepers

Moscow has accused Tbilisi of trying to discredit Russian peacekeepers by claiming they may have been involved in a shoot-out between Georgia and its breakaway republic South Ossetia.

There was a series of shootings on Friday night between residential neighbourhoods in the Ossetian capital Tskhinvali and a Georgian village.

“The information spread by the Georgian media is a blatant lie. Its purpose it to mislead local residents and the international community and to discredit the peacekeeping mission, its Russian battalion in particular. Russian peacekeepers did not take part in the shootings. Any such statements are lies,” Vladimir Ivanov, Spokesman for Peacekeeping Mission, said.

Six people in South Ossetia were killed and at least 13 wounded during the attacks. The joint peacekeeping force consisting of Russian, Georgian and North Ossetian troops say the shoot-out was instigated by Georgia.

South Ossetian authorities say violence erupted when Georgian snipers killed three people. It then escalated into mortar fire.

“Everything started when a car carrying Georgian police blew up on Georgian territory on a Georgian mine, which was left there a long time ago. Apparently President Saakashvili decided to use this incident as a provocation and remind South Ossetia and the rest of the world that Georgia is not planning to change its chosen course, one which requires the use of force in settling the conflict. South Ossetia is concerned that the events overnight will have will be repeated, perhaps on a larger scale,” Dmitry Medoev, Representative of South Ossetian President In Russia, said.

“The city of Tskhinvali came under fire. The weapons which were used belong to Georgian peacekeeping forces, police units stationed in the conflict zone and Special Forces moved here especially for this purpose from inside Georgia around two weeks ago,” Mikhail Mindzaev, South Ossetian Interior Minister, said.

Georgia claims it fired upon Tskhinvali in response to South Ossetia's attacks.

“The escalation started yesterday morning, when the Interior ministry were attacked with the use of bomb and five of them were injured, some seriously. As the night fell the Ossetian check point started shooting at Georgian positions and then they started to use heavy motors and fired peaceful Georgian villages,” Shota Utiashvil, Georgian Interior Ministry representative, said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has called on Georgia and its breakaway republic of South Ossetia to show restraint and find a way to settle the conflict.

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s amid a violent conflict between ethnic Georgians and South Ossetians. It has not been recognised by the international community.