August 12, 2008 / 12:22 PM / 11 years ago

Georgia: bombs fall after Russian halt order

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Georgia’s prime minister said on Tuesday he wanted more evidence of a Russian halt to military operations because Russian fighter jets had continued to bomb Georgian villages.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said early on Tuesday that he had ordered an end to military operations in Georgia. But Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze told Reuters in an interview that Russian jets were still targeting civilians.

“Despite the Russian president’s claims earlier this morning that military operations against Georgia have been suspended, at this moment, Russian fighter jets are bombarding two Georgian villages outside South Ossetia,” Gurgenidze said.

He said the Kremlin’s statement that it had ceased military operations was the result of intense international pressure on Medvedev.

“We will need more evidence, everyone in this situation needs a signed binding agreement,” Gurgenidze said by telephone from an extraordinary meeting of parliament.

“Until that happens we are mobilized, we are prepared for everything,” he said. “I do appreciate it (Medvedev’s gesture) ... but there has been more damage to infrastructure and civilian casualties today.”

Gurgenidze said the Interior Ministry had informed him of two bombings around 20 kilometers from the town of Gori that took place after Medvedev’s statement.

Russia has denied attacking the town of Gori and has denied any incursions outside the disputed region of South Ossetia.

The Georgian government said Russian fighter aircraft were bombarding the villages of Ruisi in the Kareli region and Sakoringo in the Kaspi region, all in Georgia proper and outside the main conflict zone of South Ossetia.

At 2:00 pm (1000 GMT), after Medvedev’s order to halt operations, Russian military forces also destroyed an ambulance in the Khashuri region of Georgia proper, the Georgian government said.

“Does that look like the cessation of hostilities?” Gurgenidze said. “It could be that the executive order hasn’t trickled down to the rank and file, or it could mean something else.”

INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE

French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Moscow on Tuesday with the French and Finnish foreign ministers, and U.S. President George W. Bush has voiced his alarm over the conflict to Medvedev by phone.

France holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and Finland holds the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“Finally the international community began to speak with one voice and is beginning to get the message through that this behavior is unacceptable,” he said, responding to a question about the timing of Medvedev’s statement.

Gurgenidze said the ceasefire agreement drafted by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner could be the start of a lasting peace if Russia signed it.

“President Saakashvili has signed the four-point Kouchner plan, which is being discussed in Moscow right now. Signing that would be a start,” Gurgenidze said.

“The international community must succeed in bringing a durable and proper end to this,” he added.

editing by Tim Pearce

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