Source Pravda.Ru

Eleven killed in skirmishes in South Ossetia

Eleven people were reported killed in fighting in the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia as Georgia and Russia continued to joust over who was to blame for the conflict.

Speaking on television, Interior Minister Irakli Orkuashvili said there was heavy fighting in the region overnight and said Georgian troops had killed and recovered the bodies of eight Cossacks fighting with South Ossetian rebels.

The corpses however were not seen by independent sources, and a spokeswoman for the breakaway South Ossetia administration denied the Georgian claim.

"The Georgian interior minister's statement that eight Cossacks were killed near Tskhinvali last night is not true," spokeswoman Irina Gagloyeva said, quoted by Interfax news agency.

Gagloyeva told AFP that two local police officers were wounded in the fighting but "no one was killed", reports Channel News Asia.

Tbilisi's latest round of violent brinksmanship with South Ossetia may well not end as peacefully and successfully as it did with Ajara in May 2004.

As Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili attempts to bring a second breakaway region back into an integrated state, the International Crisis Group's latest briefing paper, Saakashvili's Ajara Success: Repeatable Elsewhere in Georgia?, examines his efforts with the first.

Through a skilful mix of threatened force and imaginative diplomacy, Saakashvili manoeuvred Aslan Abashidze into peacefully ending his thirteen-year control of Ajara. Many have compared the current tensions in South Ossetia with those events, and assume that Saakashvili's early success is about to be repeated, writes International Crisis Group.

South Ossetia has been a de-facto independent region of Georgia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But earlier this year the newly elected Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili, pledged to bring it back under central control.

Since then, tensions and clashes between Georgian and South Ossetian forces have escalated, and now there are fears the situation might descend into all-out war.

There are also fears that this could also jeopardise a strategic oil pipeline that crosses the region.

South Ossetians strongly oppose Mr Saakashvili's vision for their reintegration into Georgia proper.

"We want to live with Russia - we don't want to live with Georgia any more," said a woman in a market in South Ossetia's main city Tskhinvali, according to BBC.