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Russian, Georgian Leaders Trade Accusations As Fighting Rages in South Ossetia


Russia and Georgia have accused each other of being the aggressor as fighting rages on in South Ossetia.

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Saturday asserted that Georgia has committed genocide against its own people, and therefore has lost the right to rule the breakaway region. Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili called Russia's actions in South Ossetia "madness," and he urged an immediate cease-fire.

Fierce fighting continued for a second day in the region Saturday, and thousands of people were reported to be fleeing the violence. The fighting was centered in South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali, but there also were reports of battles outside South Ossetia, including in Georgia's other breakaway region of Abkhazia. Georgian officials accused Russia of staging airstrikes on military bases not far from Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, and of bombing the Black Sea port city of Poti, which is home to key oil shipping facilities.

Mr. Putin called the situation a "humanitarian catastrophe," citing Russian claims of 15-hundred deaths in the fighting. Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said the conflict has claimed 150 lives, including about 40 civilians.

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