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International Pressure Mounts on Georgia, Russia for Cease-Fire


Georgia says it has ordered its troops in the breakaway region of South Ossetia to cease fire, after withdrawing its troops from South Ossetia's capital. There was no direct response from Russia to Georgia's offer to negotiate an end to three days of fierce fighting in the region. Russia says Georgia is still firing at targets in South Ossetia, Georgia says Russia has again bombed Gori, and dropped bombs near the international airport of Tbilisi. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb met Sunday in Tbilisi with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. Emma Stickgold report for VOA from Moscow.

Russian officials say they now control most of Tkhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, as the conflict between Russia and Georgia widened. The fighting spread to Abkhazia, Georgia's other breakaway region, and Georgian officials said Russian planes bombed a military airfield outside the Georgian capital.

Abkhazia announced it had mobilized troops, and called up reservists Sunday to reassert control over the one part of the province that remains under Georgian control.

Russia sent naval vessels to Georgia's Black Sea coast. Ukrainian officials warned that they may bar Russian warships taken from the key Russian naval base in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol from returning.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin condemned Georgia's offensive in South Ossetia, which began early Friday, when Georgia sought to gain control of the region from separatists.

Mr. Putin said there were signs of genocide against the Ossetian people.

Georgian officials described their troop withdrawal from South Ossetia's capital as a goodwill measure aimed at stopping the military confrontation. Officials said they have asked the United States to mediate the conflict.

The United States called Russia's actions "disproportionate" and called for a cease-fire and return to the status quo of August 6, before the Georgian offensive began.

Russia and Georgia agreed to open two humanitarian corridors to evacuate the wounded and refugees in South Ossetia.

Rita Khopzhayva, one such refugee, painted a bleak picture of the situation.

"It's hell," she said, describing it as a massive use of bombs preventing escape. "Children are hungry," she said. "There is no water, no light, no bread, no gas, nothing. It's a nightmare," she said, adding, "There is nothing you can compare it to."

The fighting began Friday when Georgia sought to regain South Ossetia from separatists in a major offensive. Russia, which has close ties to the province, responded by sending thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks.

Leaders from around the world have called on both sides to end the fighting, issuing statements deploring the current situation and sending a delegation of high-level diplomats.

The recent violence is the worst since the region won de facto independence in 1992. South Ossetians are eager to join fellow Ossetians in North Ossetia, which was included within Russian borders following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
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