August 12, 2008; 22.30
On the situation in South Ossetia (press review)
August 13 day of mourning in Russia
President Medvedev has issued a decree declaring August 13 a day of mourning in Russia for the humanitarian disaster in South Ossetia.
1. Medvedev and Sarkozy devise peace plan
Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy have drawn up a six point peace plan for settling the conflict in South Ossetia. Non-use of force and stopping all military action are among the conditions which
must be met if the proposal is to succeed.
At a meeting in Moscow, the Russian and French presidents called for the sides to sign up to the following principles:
1) Non-use of force.
2) Stop all military action.
3) Free access to humanitarian aid.
4) Georgian troops return to their previous positions before the conflict.
5) Russian troops return to the lines they held before the start of the military operation. Before an international solution is worked out Russian peacekeepers are taking up an additional security role.
6) The start of an international discussion over the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The French President will travel to Georgia after his trip to the Russian capital.
Earlier, Sarkozy had shown his understanding of Russia’s position. He added that France and Europe sought peace, and all the efforts now are aimed at achieving it.
“It’s quite normal that Russia wants to defend its interests, as well as the interests of Russians both in and outside Russia. It is also normal that we, the international community, want to guarantee the integrity, sovereignty and independence
of Georgia. France has delivered a document to you and, I hope, we will be working on that basis.”
Shortly after the attacks began last week, the country urged all sides to show restraint and avoid any escalation, as well as a resumption of direct dialogue between them.
France also proposed a ceasefire plan, which was rejected by Russia. Moscow insisted that before the ceasefire could take place, Georgia must withdraw its troops from the conflict area.
The two Presidents have also had several phone conversations in the past few days on the situation in South Ossetia and Georgia.
Reports say Georgian troops continue fire
There are reports from South Ossetia of continued small arms fire. Russian peacekeepers say Georgian troops are firing on their positions in the capital Tskhinvali.
The news comes as Moscow announced the end of military operations in the republic. Russia has urged Tbilisi to re-deploy its military outside South Ossetia and sign an agreement not to use force.
Authorities in South Ossetia say about two thousand people have died in the fighting. Their capital Tskhinvali lies in ruins. Russian emergency services say they are caring for hundreds of wounded in the area.
The Russian Government has promised some 40 million dollars to help re-build the city.
It is estimated that more than 30,000 Ossetians have fled the fighting to cross the border to Russia. Funerals are being held in North Ossetia.
2. Georgia quits CIS as Medvedev orders end to military operation
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has announced his country is to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), an alliance of former Soviet republics. It follows Dmitry Medvedev’s order to end Russia’s military operation in Georgia.
Saakashvili made the announcement during a rally in the capital Tbilisi. In his speech he called on other countries in the union to leave the organisation.
"We have decided that Georgia will leave the CIS,” he said. “We urge Ukraine and other countries to also leave the Commonwealth of Independent States, which is dominated by Russia".
The CIS includes all the former Soviet republics apart from the Baltic states.
The Georgian leader also denounced the peacekeeping agreements with Russia, and declared all Russian troops in Georgian territory as “occupational forces invading Abkhazia and South Ossetia”.
He continued by accusing Russian tanks and artillery of shooting at the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, and clamed to have personally seen it. The city is in ruins after shelling by Georgian troops.
Medvedev lists conditions for troop withdrawal
Medvedev has outlined the conditions under which the Russian troops will fully withdraw and peace negotiations can begin.
“We have two conditions,” he said. “First, all Georgian troops should return to their initial positions and be partly demilitarised. Second, Georgia should sign a legally binding document that will provide the non-use of force.”
Earlier Russian President Medvedev said the security of the South Ossetian population and of Russian peacekeepers has been restored. He added that the aggressor has been punished and suffered considerable losses.
The Russian President said he would award the military with state medals for the successful operation.
Russian FM calls for Hague tribunal over Georgia
Meanwhile Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, spoke out against Georgia at a joint news conference with the Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb.
He called for crimes committed by the Georgian military in South Ossetia to be investigated by the international tribunal in The Hague.
Lavrov accused Georgian peacekeepers of firing on their Russian counterparts and believes they shouldn't be allowed back into the region.
“They have discredited the status of peacekeepers,” he said. “They have committed a crime - shooting at their companions with whom they have been serving in a joint peacekeeping force. One can’t discuss the possibility of any form of Georgian
military presence in South Ossetia.”
3. Fleeing from violence: more refugees to cross into Russia
Refugees from the fighting in South Ossetia are continuing to cross into Russia following the opening of a humanitarian corridor on Monday. 34,000 evacuees have already fled the conflict zone, while thousands continue to head for refugee camps
in the neighbouring Russian Republic of North Ossetia.
Others would like to leave South Ossetia, but are unable to do so, as the gunfire continues in several districts.
Alagir camp is the closest to the South Ossetian border. It is a place where refugees are being gathered and sent to Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Rostov-on-Don.
According to Kazbek Vasiev, head of the Alagir region’s administration, almost 1700 refugees have already found temporary shelter in the camp. Many people from North Ossetia are coming to check if any of their relatives are there.
More then 3,000 refugees are expected in the next couple of days. About a thousand of them are reported to be wounded.
Black Sea resort gives shelter to 300
More than 300 Ossetian refugees have found shelter at the Russian Black sea resort of Anapa in the Krasnodar region.The local administration in Anapa provided transportation, housing, food and clothes for the refugees.
Russia says it is prepared to accept any amount of refugees from Tskhinvali on the Black Sea coast. For South Ossetia's women, children and elderly this is one of just a few places where they can feel safe and try to forget the horrors
they've seen as Georgia bombed their homes.
One refugee, Elena Kozaeva, said: “We saw that our house caught fire too, but didn't know where to go. We were so scared.”
Elena's daughter, Salima, told how their grandfather, a 90-year-old man, is still in Tskhinvali.
“Grandpa is alive,” she said. “But there is no bread or any food. I think he is still sitting in the cold basement, hungry.”
Anapa is a traditional children's resort. Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov says it was a very emotional experience to see Ossetian kids too tired to smile, too scared, after what they had witnessed. Pakhomov says local people are doing their best to help
“We understood that children spent a lot of time on the road,” he said. “We had to immediately wash and feed them, and then put them to bed. We very quickly accommodated the kids, in the matter of half an hour.”
Nobody in the camp knows what is going to happen after they spend a month here. Everyone is hoping that the tragedy in Tskhinvali will never happen again - and that Georgian leaders who ordered the bombings of South Ossetia will be made to
Salima Kharobova, a refugee, said: “On behalf of me, personally, and on behalf of the people of Ossetia, I appeal to the president and the prime minister of the Russian Federation to acknowledge us, to acknowledge South Ossetia, and deliver us
from these fascists.”
According to: official web-sites of the President of the Russian Federation, of the Government of the Russian Federation, of the Ministry of the Foreign Affaires of the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS News Agency, Russia Today TV