Russia to use force if Georgian shelling continues

Russia says it is prepared to use force to protect its troops and civilians in South Ossetia if Georgia continues its military provocations, according to Russian officials.

Earlier on Saturday, the South Ossetian Defence Ministry claimed one of its lookouts in the border zone was fired upon, although no casualties were reported.

Although South Ossetian authorities do not report any casualties in these alleged attacks, and Georgian officials deny all allegations of launching them, Russia’s Defense Ministry has called the incident a provocation.

"Events in August 2008 developed in line with a similar scenario, which led to Georgia undertaking military aggression against South Ossetia and attacking the Russian peacekeeping contingent," the Ministry officials said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.

According to Russian officials, this was not the first provocation in the last four days. The Defense Ministry says it intends to use all its resources to protect South Ossetian and Russian citizens in the region, including the peacekeepers.

"In case of further provocations threatening the republic's population and the Russian military contingent deployed in South Ossetia, the ministry retains the right to use all available means and forces to defend the nationals of South Ossetia and Russian servicemen," Russia’s Defense Ministry has warned.

Georgia's Foreign Ministry, in turn, named the Russian statements on Tbilisi's actions on South Ossetia "absolutely groundless" and said they are "an undisguised threat to Georgia".

The Georgian side said this position "is aimed at destabilizing the situation in the region and is leading to a dangerous scenario".

Georgia urged the international community to give an assessment of the Russian representatives’ comments.

Since recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and signing documents on co-operation and defense, nearly 4,000 Russian troops have been stationed in both territories for defense purposes.

Even now, almost a year since the conflict ended, the local population continues to suffer from the trauma of the short war and these latest incidents, therefore, only aggravate the situation.

Russia and CIS expert, Leonid Gusev, explains:

“First of all, President Saakashvili is thinking about the promises he made when he was elected for his first and second terms in office, when he said that Abkhazia and South Ossetia would become part of Georgia's territory. So, his actions are addressed to Georgians and he wants to show the west that he is the person who can control the situation.”

It has been just under one year since the conflict in South Ossetia erupted. It ended with a ceasefire agreement, or with the so-called Medvedev-Sarkozy plan, and Russia has been fulfilling its obligations under this plan.

In the case the allegations of Georgian mortar shots on the South Ossetian territory are true, then it would be a serious violation of the ceasefire agreement.