Georgian troops withdraw from capital

Georgian troops today pulled out of the capital of the breakaway province of South Ossetia under massive Russian shelling.

Georgian troops today pulled out of the capital of the breakaway province of South Ossetia under massive Russian shelling.

Georgia’s Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili said the Georgian troops left Tskhinvali to change their location. He said Georgian troops remained in South Ossetia.

He said the pull out will help provide a humanitarian corridor to evacuate those wounded from Tskhinvali.

The city has been ravaged by fierce battles since Friday when Georgian troops launched an offensive to regain control over South Ossetia.

Georgia's Security Council chief Alexander Lomaia said the Georgian troops had to move out of Tskhinvali because of heavy Russian fire.

“Russia further escalated its aggression overnight, using weapons on unprecedented scale,” Lomaia said. “In these conditions our forces conducted redeployment.”

A Russian general said yesterday that his troops had driven Georgian forces out Tskhinvali and were moving to push them away from heights overlooking the city.

But another Russian officer Gen Marat Kulakhmetov said intensive fighting for the city continued overnight and this morning.

Hopes for an end to the fierce fighting Ossetia were dashed earlier today when Russia refused to agree to a ceasefire or a diplomatic agreement.

The impasse means the fighting with Georgia will keep spilling over to other regions such as Abkhazia’s Kodori Ridge, where 15 United Nations military observers were told to evacuate.

“A ceasefire would not be a solution. The fighting is still going on. The Georgian forces are continuing to be on the South Ossetian territory,” Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.

“All those actions and signals we have seen are not things which would not be conducive to a ceasefire.”

As the fighting over South Ossetia spread, the diplomatic stand-off continued in the United Nations Security Council, which met for the third time since Thursday to try to help resolve the situation.

Negotiations were intense as the council dynamics mainly pitted Russia against the other 14 council members led by the US, an ally of Georgia, who were pressing for a ceasefire that respects Georgia’s sovereignty, diplomats said. Russia, the US, Britain, France and China are the five nations with council veto power.

“This conflict is expanding, this conflict is escalating,” US deputy ambassador to the UN, Alejandro Wolff, said.

Mr Churkin also said “the fighting is spreading” and thousands were killed since Georgia launched a major military offensive to maintain control of South Ossetia, a separatist area of Georgia. Then Russian troops and tanks rumbled in.

“The Georgian forces must pull out of South Ossetia,” he said. “And then they must accept the need to sign an agreement on non-use of force with South Ossetians.”

Later it was reported that the Russian navy has deployed ships to blockade Georgia's Black Sea coast.

The Interfax news agency said the Moskva missile cruiser and other Russian Black Sea Fleet ships have been deployed to Georgia’s coast to prevent any weapons supplies.

A Russian navy spokesman refused to comment.

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