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8 Aug, 2008 20:06

Shelling of South Ossetia capital stopped

The shelling of the capital of Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia has now stopped. Tskhinvali and the surrounding area were the focus of fierce fighting for more than 24 hours. South Ossetian authorities claim

Meanwhile, several Georgian towns and cities are said to have been hit.

South Ossetian forces are claiming to have shot down a Georgian fighter plane. A jet was downed by the republics air defences, near the capital Tskhinvali. The fate of the aircraft's pilot is not yet known.

Georgia claims Russian planes have bombed its Marneuli air base. The information was released on the Georgian state channel 'Rustavi', which says four people have been killed and five wounded in the attack. A video has been released by the channel. Several military aircraft have reportedly been destroyed.

The information hasn't been confirmed by the Russian military.

Meanwhile, Russian channels have been blocked across the country, according to the head of the international media center in the capital.

South Ossetian authorities say Tbilisi's actions amount to genocide against the residents of the republic (watch the video). Tskhinvali is said to be laying in ruins, and five villages have been razed to the ground.

Evacuation is underway for residents of  the South Ossetian Capital of Tshinvali and nearby villages. Both South Ossetians and Georgians are leaving the area. Those remaining hide in the underground shelters.

The situation reached the point that Georgian peacekeepers have been shooting at Russian peacekeepers. Now women, children and old people are dying in South Ossetia – most of them are citizens of the Russian Federation. According to the constitution, I, as the President of the Russian Federation, must protect lives and the dignity of Russian citizens wherever they are. Those responsible for the deaths of our citizens will be punished.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev

Russia and the international community have called on Georgia to pull its troops out of the region. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow will take appropriate political and military measures to stop the violence in South Ossetia.

Residents of the South Ossetian Capital of Tshinvali are said to be experiencing shortages of medicine and water, while most of the communication networks of the city have been destroyed. Russian peacekeepers are assisting locals who remain in the area.

The Russian Emergency Ministry has sent a mobile hospital to North Ossetia where thousands of refugees have fled from South Ossetia. The Russian President has ordered the government to take urgent measures to provide humanitarian aid to those leaving the conflict zone. However, moving the wounded and other civilians is said to be difficult at the moment.

Another of Georgia's breakaway republic's, Abkhazia, says Georgia is building-up its military across the Abkhazian border. Earlier, the republic's president Sergey Bagapsh expressed his readiness to help South Ossetia.

The republic of South Ossetia has been a point of dispute since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although it declared independence from Georgia in the early 90s, it has never been officially recognised (watch the video).