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South Ossetia asks for more CIS peacekeepers

Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov says Georgia's claims of an alleged Russian missile attack are a “theatrical show”. His statements come as the self-proclaimed republic of South Ossetia calls for an increase of the number of

“I believe that it was yet another theatrical show. It was performed, but it was not staged professionally. At first they called it a bomb, and then a missile. At first they said it was a SU 24, then – SU 25. You may remember the TV shots from the scene, where a bomb or a missile went deep under ground. That area was surrounded by so-called police tape. And that tape was placed within two or three metres from the unexploded bomb. Just think about it. If a real bomb or a missile with an unexploded warhead was really there, then the police tape should’ve been placed at least 500 or 800 metres away, not within two metres where the journalists were standing. If it exploded you may imagine what would’ve happened,” Mr Ivanov said.

The deputy Prime Minister added that the main goal behind the allegations is to disrupt the Joint Control Comission session from taking place.

The Commission is responsible for easing tensions between Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia. The minister says the Georgian authorities have succeeded in their aim.

Georgian officials say that the Russian AS-11 air-to-ground missile was launched from a Russian military plane that violated Georgia's airspace on August 6. Tbilisi called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting to investigate the incident. But the meeting didn't happen.

“The UN should respond to this issue because it’s a matter of the international security as well as the matter of direct aggression towards one of the member states,fighting also on the high number of undeniable evidence,” Dmitry Mandjavidze, Georgia's Ministry of Conflict Resolution, declared.

Russia denies any involvement. According to the country's Air Force reports, no Russian military planes flew in the vicinity of the border on the date of the incident.

We will ask the Russian government to provide an extra 300 peacekeepers from both Russia and North Ossetia. We are really concerned about the recent provocation from Georgia. It may even be aimed against the Georgian people…

Eduard Kokoyti, South Ossetian President

Meanwhile, speaking to a group of students in Tbilisi, Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili, said his country is not looking for direct confrontation with Moscow and that good relations are among its political aims. 

“I do want to state we are not in a wartime posture with Russia. We are not planning to fight with Russia. We are ready to defend our country. Our political aim is to have good relations with Russia and our great political aim is to integrate in Euro-Atlantic structures and restore our territorial integrity. We offer the Russian Federation a full and transparent co-operation on issues of defence and we were the first country that, after I came to power, assisted Russia in the provision of the security of its borders,” Mr Saakashvili stated.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili

But South Ossetian authorities say the missile launch is a provocation by the Georgian air force.

“We will ask the Russian government to provide an extra 300 peacekeepers from both Russia and North Ossetia. We are really concerned about the recent provocation from Georgia. It may even be aimed against the Georgian people. The latest incident with the missile shows that Saakashvili will go out of his way. He is willing to blame Russia or South Ossetia for his own aggressive acts,” Eduard Kokoyti, South Ossetian President, said.

Georgia's breakaway republic, South Ossetia, proclaimed independence in the early 1990's. A violent conflict between Georgian troops and the South Ossetian army claimed hundreds of lives. CIS peacekeepers managed to stop the bloodshed in 1992.

Since South Ossetian territory looks like a chessboard, where Georgian and Ossetian villages cannot be separated by a straight borderline, some checkpoints, like the one in the village of Tamarasheni, are almost in people's backyards. Dozens of Georgian and Ossetian families continue to live on the frontline.

Russia's First deputy Prime Minister   
                          Sergey Ivanov
Russia's First deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov

While diplomats and politicians are investigating yet another incident at the border, for ordinary people the problems are less complicated – water and regular electricity supply.

Eighty year-old Mikhail Kabisov and his sister Anna live across the street from the Tamarasheni checkpoint. Their only hope is a small piece of land where they grow apples, plums, tomatoes and grapes. But after irrigation facilities in neighboring Georgia broke down, the Kabisovs don't have enough water for their plants and trees.

“It's hard to survive without water. The plants will die without proper irrigation. I think the Geogians have similar problems. They don't have enough water too, so they stopped supplying us,” Mikhail Kabisov, South Ossetian farmer, said.

Although the people of South Ossetia hear gunfire at the border almost every week, the republic is trying to return to peaceful life. Most people are tired of living under the constant threat from bomb blasts, snipers and now missile attacks.

But still, they are hoping for a better future. At least for the new generation of Ossetians.