By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
MOSCOW/TBLISI (RUSHPRNEWS)12 August 2008 — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered an end to military operations against Georgia, a day after the United States accussed Moscow of “invading” the country and Christian missionaries expressed concerns about damaged churches. In a statement the Kremlin said Tuesday, August 12, that Medvedev told officials he had taken the decision to end the operation after restoring security for civilians and peacekeepers in South Ossetia. It was unclear what impact the decision would have on the other region seeking independence, Abkhazia, where Russian troops are also reported to support seperatists.
It came after Unuted States President George W. Bush, in remarks resembling the Cold War, expressed alarm that Russian forces moved beyond the zone of conflict in South Ossetia, attacked the central town of Gori, are threatening the capital Tbilisi, and may soon begin bombing the Tbilisi civilian airport.
“If these reports are accurate, these Russian actions would represent dramatic and brutal escalation of the conflict in Georgia. These actions would be inconsistent with assurances we have received from Russia that its objectives were limited to restoring the status quo in South Ossetia that existed before fighting began on August 6th,” he said.
Bush said Russia’s invasion of a sovereign neighbor and threats to its elected democratic government are unacceptable conduct in the 21st Century. Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili, told repoters that Russia was aiming to overthrow his government.
“The goal of this operation is not only to seize and annex part of Georgian territory, but they clearly said that the goal of this operation is regime- change in Georgia, the change of a democratically elected government of Georgia,” he said. Moscow has denied the charges, but has been highly critical of Georgia’s leadership, and there were no signs of imminent talks.
Christians were also in the cross-fire, reported mission group Russian Ministries. It said at least three evangelical churches were damaged At least three evangelical churches, with which the group has worked, were damaged over the weekend in fighting in the town of Zhinvali in South Ossetia.
The conflict began late last week, and escalated over the weekend, with Pope Benedict XVI appealing for for an immediate halt to the military clashes.
SHARED CHRISTIAN HERITAGE
Making an appeal to the “shared Christian heritage” of Georgia and Russia– both predominantly Orthodox nations– the Pope promised that Catholics would pray for a quick resolution of the conflict. However on the ground, thousands of people, including many Christians, are suffering and missionaries were trying to help them, Russian Ministries said in a statement to BosNewsLife.
Before Russia’s announcement to withdraw Tuesday, August 12, there were fresh reports of Russian warplanes bombing the Georgian town of Gori. Witnesses and reporters said there was bombing of the Georgian town of Gori by Russian aircraft.
Journalists in the town reported several casualties in Gori some 75 kilometers (41 miles) west of Georgia’s capital, Tbilis, the birthplace of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Also Tuesday, August 12, troops belonging to the government of the separatist province of Abkhazia launched an offensive to push Georgian troops out of the disputed Kodori Gorge, the Voice of America (VOA) reported citing local sources.
A reporter for the Reuters news agency said several bombs exploded in front of his vehicle, while a photographer for the agency spoke of seeing dead and injured people lying in the streets. Reporters said there was no sign of Russian troops south of Gori, but said there were a number of Georgian military vehicles abandoned or burnt on the road outside the town.
NEWS SOURCE: BosNewsLife,”Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals”