Press-releases of the Embassy

August 9, 2008; 23.00

On the situation in South Ossetia (press review)

South Ossetian capital completely destroyed

The Chief of Russian ground forces, Igor Konashenkov, claims Georgian military action in Tskhinvali has destroyed all hospitals, killing many children. He also says the South Ossetian capital is almost ruined and left without water or electricity.

Heavy fighting is reportedly still going on in the capital. Earlier, Georgian helicopters fired on Tskhinvali, hitting residential districts.

There are claims that Georgian Special Forces have been throwing grenades into basements where women and children are sheltering. According to the South Ossetian information committee, all types of weaponry are in use, including mortars, tanks and rocket launchers.

Officials on the ground say there's no sign of a ceasefire.

More than ten border villages have reportedly been burnt to the ground.

South Ossetia claims more than 2,000 people have been killed in fighting so far. Georgia rejects this figure, saying it has lost only 30 soldiers.

More than 30,000 refugees have fled across the border to Russia's North Ossetiain the past 36 hours.

The Russian military says three peacekeepers died overnight, raising to 15 the number of Russian peacekeepers killed since hostilities began more than 24 hours ago.

Seventy Russian peacekeepers have been wounded in the fighting. Twenty were evacuated to a hospital in Vladikavkas in North Ossetia during the night in a convoy which is reported to have been shelled by Georgian forces. Thats according to Land Forces spokesman Col. Igor Konashenkov.

After a lull in artillery fire late on Friday night, Georgian shelling of Tskhinvali again resumed on Saturday morning.

The Deputy Head of the Russian General Staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsin, briefed media on Russia's operations in the area in a press conference on Saturday morning.

Aerial attacks

South Ossetian forces are claiming to have shot down two Georgian fighter planes. The jets were reportedly downed near the capital Tskhinvali.

Two Russian aircraft have been downed in the conflict zone, confirmed a Russian peacekeeping forces spokesman on Saturday. Georgian media are reporting that one of the pilots has been captured, and another has been found dead.

Georgia claims Russian planes have bombed its Marneuli air base. Georgian state channel 'Rustavi' reported that four people were killed and five wounded in the attack. A video of the incident has been released by the channel. Several military aircraft have reportedly been destroyed.

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

Meanwhile, Russian television channels have been blocked across Georgia, according to the head of the international media centre in the capital Tbilisi.

No western cameras in South Ossetia

The conflict over Georgias 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.

Only the Russian media and one Ukrainian channel have been filming in the breakaway republic. No western camera crews have been working in the conflict zone, Suslan Bekoev, South Ossetian committee for information and press, said.

Diplomatic efforts

Earlier on Saturday, President Medvedev said Russia would bring the violence to an end.

In a meeting with Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, Medvedev said Russian peacekeepers would attempt to "force the Georgian side to stop fighting."

Meanwhile, a second emergency meeting of the UN Security Council has ended without agreement. It was held on Saturday morning, but no firm resolution to end the conflict was reached.

The Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin says the lack of a swift response to the violence led to its escalation:

"I am compelled to state that Georgia continues its treacherous attack on South Ossetia. This is happening despite the appeal of the Russian leadership for an immediate ceasefire and an end to this fratricidal conflict and resumption of the negotiating process.

This scenario has become possible as a result of the connivance by a number of Security Council members who blocked last nights assessment of the tragedy on the basis of the documents submitted last night by Russia.

The aggression was perpetrated in violation of the fundamental principles of the United Charter on non use of force".

Humanitarian concerns

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

Tskhinvali and nearby villages are being evacuated. Both South Ossetians and Georgians are leaving the area. Those remaining are hiding in the underground shelters.

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.

Tshinvali is reported to be short of medicine and water, while most of the city's communication networks have been destroyed. Russian peacekeepers are assisting remaining residents.

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. Efforts are under way to move the wounded and other vulnerable civilians.