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Georgia, Russia Mark First Anniversary of War

Georgia and Russia are marking the first anniversary of their conflict over the breakaway Georgian territory of South Ossetia with competing ceremonies and again exchanging charges.

Georgians joined in a minute of silence honoring the victims of the conflict ahead of an address by President Mikheil Saakashvili in Gori, the Georgian city that suffered most from Russian military operations.

An outdoor exhibition in the Georgian capital Tbilisi is portraying centuries of Russian efforts to dominate the country.

Various commemorations are being held in the South Ossetian capital. The region's leader, Eduard Kokoity, in televised comments, accused Georgia of efforts to exterminate his people.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in comments to VOA Russian service Thursday insisted the international community has recognized Russia as the aggressor.

The European Union, in a statement Friday, noted that its monitors in the area describe the situation as broadly calm.

But it also urged the sides to make further efforts to allow the return of refugees to their homes.

Russia says it sent its forces into Georgia last year in response to Georgian military efforts to regain control of South Ossetia by force. Georgia says it was responding to a Russian invasion.

Weeks after a cease-fire, Russia recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway region of Georgia, Abkhazia, as independent countries, despite strong protests from Western governments.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.