Tom Parfitt, Helen Womack and Jonathan Steele
Monday, Aug 11, 2008
Russian forces were moving to take total control of South Ossetia last night as Georgia withdrew troops amid intense diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire to end the three-day conflict in which 2,000 people have reportedly been killed and up to 22,000 displaced. Seizing the opening offered by President Mikheil Saakashvili’s doomed military incursion last week, Moscow also insisted the Georgian leader should resign, according to senior US diplomats.
Russian aircraft bombed Tbilisi’s international airport hours before the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was due to land on an EU mission, the Georgian interior ministry said. Last night it was reported that Russia sank a Georgian ship after coming under attack.
Russia and the US clashed at the UN security council – meeting for the fourth time in four days to discuss the crisis – over charges that Moscow wanted “regime change” in Georgia.
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Zalid Khalilzad, the US ambassador to the UN, asked his Russian counterpart Vitali Churkin: “Is the goal of the Russian Federation to change the leadership of Georgia?” Churkin replied: “There are leaders who become an obstacle. Sometimes those leaders need to contemplate how useful they have become to their people.”
Meanwhile, the tide of refugees fleeing ruined towns and villages showed no sign of ending last night as Russian forces pushed forward after Saakashvili pulled his bloodied troops out of the territory.
People spoke of their ordeal since an unexpected incursion by Georgian forces into Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region, provoked a massive Russian response. Many had travelled in their nightclothes on rocky roads through the mountains and gave blood-curdling accounts of Georgian atrocities.
This article was posted: Monday, August 11, 2008 at 1:20 pm