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10 Aug, 2008 07:09

Shelled city is living hell

Thousands of South Ossetians are trapped in the ruins of a city almost destroyed by Georgian missiles. The remaining residents of Tskhinvali are huddled in cellars beneath bombed-out buildings. They are struggling to survive – without water and food.

The death toll in Georgia’s breakaway republic has reached at least 2,000, according to Russian and South Ossetian sources. Georgian officials deny the figure is that high.

Twelve Russian peacekeepers have also been killed in the fighting with up to 150 others wounded.

A Russian army general was injured when his unit came under fire. There is no information on his condition yet.

In two days of intense fighting, South Ossetia claims a Georgian bomber was shot down and 12 Georgian tanks destroyed in and around Tskhinvali.

The capital is said to be almost completely ruined and without water and electricity.

If you are about to watch the video be warned that some people may find the images disturbing.

The chief of Russia's ground forces says Georgian shelling has destroyed all the hospitals in the South Ossetian captial, Tskhinvali.

It's also reported that more than ten border villages have  been burnt to the ground.

The Russian President, Dimitry Medvedev, said Georgia is denying the whole of South Ossetia the right to life by its actions. He said that: “Russian peacekeepers and military units are carrying out an operation to enforce Georgia to a peace deal. They are also responsible for defending of the civillian population”.

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says the government is planning to allocate around $US 400 million for the reconstruction of South Ossetia.

“The actions of the Georgian leadership in South Ossetia are crime against their own people. A deliberate blow was delivered to the integrity of Georgia and that means a massive damage to its identity. It is hard to imagine after all that happened and all that is still happening they will be able to convince South Ossetia to belong to Georgia,” said Vladimir Putin.

The Russian Ambassador to Georgia, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, says 12 Russian peacekeepers have been killed and 70 wounded during the Georgian attacks.

People take shelter in bunkers

More than 30,000 refugees have arrived in Russia's southern regions as people try to flee the conflict zone. Meanwhile, thousands of people still remain in the demolished city of Tskhinvali. Amid continuing shelling, people are sheltering in bunkers, but are said to be running out of food, and there is no water or electricity.

Russia's Emergency's Ministry has delivered the first consignment of medication to the South Ossetian capital. Humanitarian aid and power generators are also expected to be delivered soon.

Russian military officials say the 76th Airborne Brigade of the Russian Army has arrived in the conflict region. One section of the brigade has already flown to the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. Other troops will move to the region by ground transport, military sources said.

The main goal of the reinforcements, military officials insist, is to restore peace and protect Russian citizens.

Investigations due

Russia could appeal to international legal bodies for an investigation into the number of deaths in South Ossetia. That's according to a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Meanwhile, Russia's Human Rights Commissioner, Vladimir Lukin, says an ad hoc tribunal could be set up to look into mass killings in the region.

“Who burned down Tskhinvali and made it unfit to live in within just one night? Who killed people, including children, in their hundreds or maybe even thousands? Who forced tens of thousands of people out of their homes? These questions remain unanswered and need to be looked into,” he said.

“It is absolutely necessary, on the international level, to investigate this problem, to find those responsible and to bring them to international trial. Maybe an ad hoc tribunal could be set up, just the way it used to be done for other cases of mass genocide,” Lukin said.

President Medvedev said all crimes in the South Ossetian republic must be documented. Those accused onf involvement will face criminal charges.

The statement followed a meeting with the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, in which the two men discussed the situation in the conflict area.

“We are talking about the lives of our citizens now, for which we are responsible,” Medvedev said.

No western cameras in South Ossetia

The conflict over Georgia’s breakaway republic is as much about information as it is about weapons. South Ossetia's press service claims Western media outlets can't be trusted because they haven't been operating in the region “since the conflict began”. No western camera crews have been working in the conflict zone," Suslan Bekoev, South Ossetian committee for information and press, said.

Tbilisi remains silent – Russia

Russia's Foreign Ministry says it has not received any proposals from Georgia to stop hostilities. The statement comes after reports that Georgia's President offered Moscow a plan to end the violence.

Russia has insisted a deal can only be reached if Georgia withdraws its troops.

Moscow has repeatedly stressed that it sent additional forces to aid the peacekeepers in the conflict zone, as a response to Georgia's aggression.

Meanwhile, Tbilisi has introduced martial law, and accused Russia of launching a war against it.