Tbilisi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Russia-backed rebels in Abkhazia launched a military offensive at dawn this morning to force Georgian troops out of the disputed Kodori gorge in the north. Meanwhile Russian troops are pressing on in south Ossetia towards the capital Tbilisi. Russian soldiers have been on the ground in Abkhazia for some days now.
The office of the UN observer to Abkhazia has been evacuated. Tbilisi is pressing for the deployment of UN troops between Georgia and Russia, but Moscow, as a member of the UN Security Council is prepared to use its veto.
Clashes broke out on August 7th when Georgian troops penetrated South Ossetia to regain control of the territory. Following a war with Georgia in the ‘90’s the two regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence from Tbilisi, an independence that has not been recognised by the International community but has Russian support.
U.S. President George W. Bush demanded Russia end its armed conflict with Georgia calling it an “invasion”. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, current EU president, heads to Moscow today to lead efforts to end hostilities and bring Russia to a ceasefire. But a Russian spokesperson says that the Kremlin will not accept any compromise that does not condemn what it calls Georgia’s “aggression”.
NATO has ruled out sending troops to the region.
Russian sources put the death toll from hostilities at two thousand. The Red Cross says it is still impossible to put an exact number on how many people have been killed or wounded in the clashes. The violence however, has generated thousands of refugees across the ethnic divide.