Georgia's leader is calling for an immediate cease-fire in the breakaway
region of South Ossetia. Russian warplanes carried out new airstrikes
against Georgian military targets Saturday, as fighting between the two
sides reportedly spread to another disputed region. Emma Stickgold
reports from Moscow.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili called for an end to the fighting Saturday, shortly before getting approval from the Georgian parliament to declare a 15-day period of martial law.
South Ossetia's capital Tskinvali was in ruins as the region entered its second day of fighting between separatists and Georgian forces. At the same time, officials reported Russian warplanes hit targets in the breakaway region of Abkhazia.
Georgia had launched an offensive Friday to retake control of breakaway South Ossetia from separatists. Russia, which has close ties to the province, responded by sending troops to protect civilians and force a cease-fire.
The countries disagree on whether Georgia has gained control of the region. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said there was little doubt that Georgia had taken over.
Saakashvili said Georgia was in full control of Tskinvali, adding that the city has been cleaned of bandit gangs. He noted that the city has suffered great damage from crossfire, while Russian planes bombed the city.
As Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers rumbled through the streets, evacuees expressed fear and uncertainty about the future. Irina, a passenger at an airport terminal who did not give her last name, lamented the current state of affairs.
Irina says she believes the violence was not necessary. She says she has sympathy for the Georgian people because her husband is there. She says she is also emotional for Russians because her mother there.
The recent spate of violence is the worst to break out 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.