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11 Aug, 2008 19:23

‘Major part’ of peace mission completed – Medvedev

Russia has accomplished a significant part of its mission to restore peace to the breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia, says President Dmitry Medvedev. He said a reinforced peacekeeping contingent is now fully in control of the region's capital Ts

In a Kremlin meeting with Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov on Monday, Medvedev said: “A major part of the operation to force the Georgian side and the Georgian authorities to peace in South Ossetia has been completed”.

The President went on to say: “Tskhinvali is under the control of a strengthened Russian peacekeeping contingent.”

Deputy Head of the Russian General Staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsin, told journalists that Russia is attempting to contain the conflict and prevent it from spilling over into Georgia’s other breakaway republic, Abkhazia, or into Russian territory. To watch the full press conference, click here.

In another development, the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Alexandr Bortnikov, said on Monday that nine Georgian spies had been detained. They are accused of planning terrorist acts in Russia.

Meanwhile there have been reports of renewed artillery fire coming from towns and villages surrounding the South Ossetian capital. Operations are under way to take control of strategic high points in the mountainous conflict zone.

Georgia says its forces have pulled out of the conflict zone but Russian military sources say they are still encountering resistance.

A constant flow of evacuees to neighbouring North Ossetia report that Georgian troops remain in the area and sporadic fighting continues. (CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY)

The capital of the Russian republic of North Ossetia is struggling to cope with the influx of refugees and wounded civilians. Hospitals are overcrowded and medical staff are working overtime.

Meanwhile, President Dmitry Medvedev has said that he's been getting reports that Georgian authorities are trying to forcedly keep some Russian citizens that want leave the country.

“I have received reports that Georgian authorities are attempting to forcibly retain Russian citizens in Georgia. Of course, this is a gross violation of international law. I don’t know why they are doing it. Perhaps they think they could use them as human shields. This is an intolerable position,” he said.

According to reports from Tbilisi, 45 Georgian soldiers and 40 civilians were killed in two days of violence in South Ossetia. Those figures contrast wildly with those released by South Ossetia and Russia, who say an estimated 2,000 people have lost their lives.