Georgia says Russian fighters bomb Georgian villages
The exact number of casualties not known yet
Four Russian fighter jets entered Georgian airspace and bombed the towns of Gori and Kareli, bringing the two former Soviet republics closer to war over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, the Georgian Interior Ministry said, according to Bloomberg.
Three Russian military convoys entered South Ossetia and engaged Georgian forces around the regional capital Tskhinvali, ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said by telephone today from the capital Tbilisi. A spokeswoman for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said no one was available to comment on the Georgian statement immediately.
``It`s emerging to become an international conflict now,`` Utiashvili said. ``There are casualties from our side, but the exact numbers are not known yet.``
South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s and exists now as a de facto independent state with Russian peacekeepers and economic support. Georgia, a U.S. ally that wants to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, accuses Russia of stoking tensions in South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia.
Russia`s Foreign Ministry today condemned a ``massive attack`` overnight by Georgian troops on Tskhinvali and called on Georgia to return to ``civilized means`` of ending the conflict. ``The Russian Federation will continue efforts aimed at preventing further bloodshed and putting the situation in South Ossetia back on a peaceful footing,`` the ministry said in a statement on its Web site.
Utiashvili said Georgian forces are not shelling the capital ``to avoid casualties.``
The United Nations Security Council failed to pass a resolution on South Ossetia during an emergency meeting called by Russia, Agence France-Presse reported, citing diplomats in New York.