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Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in Connection with Georgia’s Provocative Actions in South

07.07.2008 09:58

RF MFA Information and Press Department

On the night of July 3-4, Tskhinvali came under intensive mortar attack. The fire from Georgian positions was being directed at residential quarters of the city; there are civilian casualties.

Events began to unfold on the morning of July 3, when in the village of Dmenisi Lieut.-Col. Nodar Bibilov, head of local police, South Ossetia’s interior ministry, was killed in a terrorist attack. Attempts on his life reportedly had also been previously made, all unmistakably traceable to Georgia.

Later on the same day, a vehicle of the Kurta-based pro-Georgian puppet administration was exploded on the Georgian-controlled territory in South Ossetia in an obviously staged act. No observers from either the peacekeeping force or OSCE were allowed to the scene. The vehicle blast was immediately used by Tbilisi as a pretext for setting up new illegal posts in the incident area.

Small arms fire was opened on the same night from pre-equipped Georgian positions in the villages of Ergneti and Nikozi in the direction of Tskhinvali’s southern outskirts. A nearby peacekeeping post of the Ossetian battalion also came under intensive attack and in the morning Georgian peacekeeping battalion troops again fired on the Ossetian peacekeepers, this time from infantry fighting vehicles.

Repeated violations of the conflict zone’s airspace were noted during the past night. Around 0005hrs, a flight of two SU-25 jets of the Georgian air force was recorded, and in addition, about six flights of unmanned aerial vehicles took place.

One more circumstance is noteworthy. Forty minutes before the start of the mortar attack, all the officers of the Tskhinvali-based Georgian peacekeeping battalion departed its headquarters simultaneously, leaving the soldiers without the commanders. The Georgian officers also hastily withdrew from some observation posts located near the attack zone.

The actions of Tbilisi show that an open act of aggression was committed against South Ossetia, an internationally recognized party in the conflict settlement efforts. It is also indicative that the Georgian side has refused to participate in a joint investigation of the incidents.

Several days before these events the Russian side had sent to the participants of the Joint Control Commission (JCC) for Georgian-Ossetian Conflict Resolution and to the representatives of the concerned international organizations a proposal to hold a meeting in Moscow for discussion of urgent confidence-building measures between the parties. We proposed as one of such measures that a radar station should be included in the Joint Peacekeeping Force to prevent conflict-zone airspace violations and to monitor observance of the agreements by the parties. The initiative was put forward in the spirit of full openness and partnership. The Georgian side flatly rejected our suggestion.

The latest armed incidents lead to a sharp escalation of the military standoff in the conflict zone. In this situation we again urgently call for resumption without delay of the joint work in the JCC format, opening the only opportunity for direct dialogue between the parties to date. The meeting must be held urgently. A further delay in resuming the negotiation process is fraught with the most tragic consequences.

Moscow believes it is intolerable when Tbilisi seeks to create an illusion of progress on the Abkhaz front while committing undisguised acts of aggression against South Ossetia. Such tactics can nullify the prospect of resolving both conflicts.