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Russia-Georgia War Intensifies

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President Bush took a break from his visit to the Olympics to call for an immediate halt to the violence and a stand down of Russian troops in Georgia. Video by AP

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The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, failed for the second day in a row to agree on a common response to the crisis.

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Russia's U.N. envoy, Vitaly I. Churkin, said the fighting would not stop until Georgia withdrew its forces from South Ossetia and signed an agreement pledging not to use force in the province again. The United States countered that Russia's military intervention into Georgian territory is threatening to destabilize the region. The United States urged all parties to agree to a cease-fire. "The first thing that has to happen is that the violence has to stop and Russian forces have to be withdrawn," said Alejandro D. Wolff, the U.S. deputy permanent representative.

Despite those efforts, combat continued for a second day Saturday and appeared to widen to other fronts. Separatists in Abkhazia, another section of Georgia seeking independence or integration into Russia, began shelling Georgian positions in the upper Kodori Gorge, the only part of Abkhazia controlled by the government in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital.

The United Nations announced it will withdraw about 15 military observers from Abkhazia, citing fear that the U.N. blue helmets could get caught in crossfire between Russian-backed Abkhaz forces and Georgian troops.

Saakashvili said in the interview that Russia was staging seaborne forces in the Black Sea near Abkhazia and planned to land troops and launch attacks on Georgian forces in the upper Kodori Gorge.

A senior U.S. official said that the Bush administration had received confirmation that Russia was moving elements of its Black Sea fleet to the area, which he described as another example of a disproportionate response by Russia.

"Why that's a legitimate use of military assets is beyond me," the official said.

Saakashvili said Russian planes struck the Black Sea port of Poti, attempted to hit but missed a pipeline carrying Caspian Sea oil to Turkey, and bombed railway stations, among other nonmilitary targets. Doctors working in Gori said that Russian planes had struck two military field hospitals.

Saakashvili said Georgia had shot down 10 Russian SU-27 fighter jets (Russia has confirmed losing two). He accused Russia of attempting to sow panic among the population by targeting apartment buildings in Gori and homes in nearby villages.

"Russia is behaving like a rogue state," he said.

"This is unprecedented," said Georgian political analyst Giorgi Margvelashvili. "Not since the destruction of the Soviet Union have they done things like that."

Georgia has mobilized its reserves and is calling home 2,000 troops serving in Iraq for the fight against Russia.


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