Georgian forces are undertaking “measures for the establishment of guaranteed peace” in South Ossetia, Lado Gurgenidze, the Georgian prime minister, said early on August 8.
“Government troops were forced to launch measures for the establishment of peace in the region after separatist forces responded to President Saakashvili’s peace initiatives by shelling Georgian villages,” PM Gurgenidze said.
“Government forces are now undertaking measures to secure the restoration and establishment of a guaranteed peaceful situation, wherein there will be no longer a threat to the population of that region.”
“These measures are ongoing now and will continue until we reach this goal,” he added.
PM Gurgenidze, however, also said that Tbilisi was willing to engage in dialogue at any time to resolve the conflict.
He said that there were casualties, both dead and wounded, but did not give details. He said that the Interior Ministry planned to provide hourly updates for the press.
PM Gurgenidze said that infiltration of “so-called volunteers” into South Ossetia from the Russian Federation via Roki Tunnel had been observed overnight on August 8.
“We are also undertaking measures to prevent further massive infiltration of those volunteers, because they are one of the major sources of destabilization,” he said.
He also called on the population to remain calm. “Today is a usual working day,” the PM said.
The prime minister said that the government had already allocated an initial GEL 50 million for humanitarian and infrastructure rehabilitation, which, he said, would be needed “as soon as peace is established.”
Heavy fighting “in and around Tskhinvali” was reported as PM Gurgenidze was speaking, as well as all night.
The South Ossetia side said there were casualties on its side, mainly among civilians, but no exact numbers were reported. Some sources said at least 15 people were killed in Tskhinvali, but others suggested more comprehensive information would reveal a higher figure.
Russian peacekeeping forces reported that “all type of heavy weaponry” was used by both sides during the overnight fighting. Georgian warplanes were also seen over the conflict zone at dawn. The Russian peacekeepers reported that five Georgian SU-25 Frogfoot attack aircraft attacked South Ossetian military positions in the village of Kverneti.
Itar-Tass news agency reported that Georgian warplanes also carried out strikes on South Ossetian positions in Java in the north of the region, which is outside the formal area of the conflict zone – a 15-kilometer radios around Tskhinvali.
“Heavy fighting in and around Tskhinvali is ongoing,” the South Ossetian Press and Information Committee reported. “The people of South Ossetia request the president and the leadership of the Russian Federation to help and to undertake measures to protect its citizens in South Ossetia.”