TBLISI, Georgia (CNN) — Georgia’s parliament Saturday approved a
request by President Mikhail Saakashvili’ s to impose a “state of war,”
as the conflict between Georgia and Russia escalated, Georgian
Saakashvili accused Russia of launching an unprovoked full-scale
military attack against his country, including targeting civilian
homes, while Russian officials insist their troops were protecting
people from Georgia’s attacks on South Ossetia, a breakaway Georgian
region that borders Russia.
Russia’s Interfax news agency said the death toll was at least 2,000
killed in the capital of South Ossetia and claimed the city has been
Separatist-backed South Ossetian sources reported that about 1,600
people have died and 90 have been wounded in provincial capital
Tskhinvali since Russian forces entered the territory Thursday.
Georgia said the overall death toll would be closer to 100.
Georgian officials said Russia has mobilized its Black Sea fleet off
the coast of Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian province.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin arrived Saturday in Vladikavkaz,
near Russia’s border with Georgia, Russia’s Interfax reported.
Meanwhile, President George Bush, speaking from Beijing, called for an
immediate halt to the violence, a stand-down by all troops, and an end
to the Russian bombings. Video Watch Bush express concerns over
The Georgian “state of war” order is not a formal declaration of war,
and stops short of declaring martial law, according to Georgian
officials who described it to CNN.
It gives Saakashvili powers he would not ordinarily have, such as
issuing curfews, restricting the movement of people, or limiting
commercial activities, those officials said.
It places the government on a 24-hour alert, said Georgian National
Security Council Secretary Alexander Lomaia during a conference call
Saakashvili asked Western leaders to pressure Russia to agree to an
immediate cease-fire, which he said his country would willingly
“We are dealing with absolutely criminal and crazy acts of
irresponsible and reckless decision makers, which is on the ground
producing dramatic and tragic consequences, ” Saakashvili said Saturday
A White House spokesman said President Bush spoke Saturday evening to
Saakashvili and Russian President Medvedev.
The war, Saakashvili said, “is not about South Ossetia. It has never
been in the first place. It is about destroying a small democratic
nation aspiring to live in peace, freedom and liberty.”
“This unprovoked, long-time-ago- planned invasion and aggression must
stop,” he said.
Russia, with a population of 146 million, is trying to destroy his
country of 4.6 million people, he said, comparing it to the 1979
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
“I think what is at stake here is the post-Cold War order,”
Inna Gagloyeva, spokeswoman for the South Ossetian Information and
Press Committee, told Russia’s Interfax news agency that Tskhinvali
was being “massively shelled” with artillery guns. Video Watch images
of crashed Georgian war plane »
It was unclear which side was in control of that city on Saturday. The
Georgians said fighting raged, but the Russians said they had
“liberated” the city.
“Battalion task forces have fully liberated Tskhinvali of Georgian
armed forces and started pushing Georgian units out of the area of
responsibility of the peacekeeping forces,” said General Vladimir
Boldyrev, commander of the Russian Ground Forces, in an interview with
Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a spokesman for the Russian
Defense Ministry, told a news conference that the Russian paratroopers
will “implement the operation of enforcing peace” on both sides.
Nogovitsyn also confirmed that Georgians had shot down two Russian
aircraft. Saakashvili said his military has shot down 10 Russian bombers.
Russia said the troops were also reinforcing the Russian peacekeepers
already in South Ossetia.
“Our peacekeepers, along with reinforcement units, are currently
conducting an operation to force the Georgian side to accept peace,”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said at the Kremlin. “They are also
responsible for protecting the population.”
Interfax said 15 peacekeepers were killed in the Friday attack by
Georgian troops. Russia has opened a criminal probe into their deaths,
Georgia, a former Soviet Republic, is a pro-Western ally of the United
States intent on asserting its authority over South Ossetia and
Abkhazia. which both have strong Russian-backed separatist
movements.Video Watch Georgian minister describe fighting in South
Russia moved troops into South Ossetia early Friday after Georgia
launched an operation in the breakaway region when its unilateral
cease-fire was met with what it said was artillery fire from
separatists that killed 10 people, including peacekeepers and civilians.
Russia charged that Georgia had targeted its peacekeepers stationed in
Medvedev said Saturday that Georgia must be held responsible for the
situation in South Ossetia.
“The people responsible for this humanitarian disaster need to be held
liable for what they have done,” Medvedev said. He said the
humanitarian problems were caused by “the aggression launched by the
Georgian side against the South Ossetian civilians and Russian
Russian officials said more than 30,000 refugees have left South
Ossetia and crossed into Russia over the past two days, since fighting
began, Interfax reported.
Maia Kardava, a Red Cross spokeswoman in the Georgian capital of
Tbilisi was unable to provide refugee or casualty figures Saturday
morning because she said aid workers were still gathering information
and visiting hospitals in South Ossetia and western Georgia.
Russian forces bombed several targets in Georgia on Saturday,
according to Kardava and the British Foreign Office, which advised
against all nonessential travel to Georgia.
Russian aircraft bombarded military and civilian targets the port town
of Poti, on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, Kardava and British and
Georgian officials said. Eight Georgians were killed in the port town,
Georgian officials said.
In the town of Senaki, just inland from Poti, Russian forces damaged a
railway line, a military base, and a center housing civilians who fled
from nearby Abkhazia.
Military bases at Vaziani and Marneuli also came under attack, the
British Foreign Office said, and Russian aircraft bombed the Georgian
town of Gori, about 35 miles northwest of Tbilisi, Georgian officials
Inside South Ossetia, civilians have been without water, electricity,
and basic services for more than a day, Kardava said. She said the Red
Cross was unable to reach colleagues based in Tskhinvali because their
phones had lost power and they were huddled in bomb shelters.
Also Saturday, the commander of Georgian troops stationed in Iraq said
the 2,000 soldiers there will be withdrawn from Iraq “very soon.”
Colonel Bondo Maisuradze said the United States would provide the
transport to get them out of Iraq. He said he had no time frame for
Saakashvili told CNN Friday that the troops were needed in Georgia to
defend against the Russian military.