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3 Sep, 2008 19:21

Russian military: 71 peacekeepers killed in conflict

Identification of the bodies of the Russian peacekeepers who perished during the armed conflict in South Ossetia will take a while. So far, 71 Russian peacekeepers have been confirmed dead and 341 wounded.

Russia's General Military Prosecutor, who was speaking to the media in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinval, stressed that this is a preliminary figure and the investigation into the conflict is far from over, with the exact number of civilian casualties yet to be established.

Sergey Fridinsky said it was difficult to get a concrete figure of the casualties because of the level of destruction in the area and also because many Ossetian families have buried their relatives on private land.

He added that there were still missing persons.

“Most Georgian troops were located in Ossetian and Georgian villages and Russian forces didn’t attack them. They deliberately refrained from doing so, because our military realised there were civilians inside. Hence, there is no destruction in Georgian villages,” Fridinsky explained.

Martial law lifted in Georgia

The Georgian parliament has lifted the martial law which had been in place in the country since August 9. But it has been replaced with a state of emergency in areas where Georgia claims Russian troops are still deployed.

Martial law was introduced in Georgia the day after the country’s troops attacked South Ossetia, and was then extended on August 23 until September 8.

David Bakradze, Georgian Parliamentary Speaker explained the decision: “Martial law regulations are causing certain problems for the country's economy. They limit export and import operations, tourism and transit.”

He added that parliament had declared a state of emergency “in the occupied territories.”

Moscow, however, insists there are no Russian troops in Georgia.

On Tuesday Russia’s Prime Minister once again confirmed the statement. “There are no Russian troops on Georgian soil – there are only peacekeeping forces,” said Vladimir Putin.