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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 July, 2004, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Georgia accused of shelling homes
By Natalia Antelava
BBC, Tbilisi

Eduard Kokoity
Eduard Kokoity says he was offered bribes to buy his loyalty
Authorities in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia claim Georgian troops have shelled its villages.

The Georgian government denies the allegation, which was made in Moscow by South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity.

Mr Kokoity was in Russia to gather support for the self-proclaimed republic and to criticise the Tbilisi government for trying to bribe him.

He says he was offered $20m (11m) and a post as vice president of the country in exchange for his loyalty.

Instead, Mr Kokoity flew to Moscow to lobby for Russia's support in the growing conflict.

Many analysts allege that Moscow is already helping.

Real conflict

Members of the Russian parliament are openly critical of Georgia's claim to South Ossetia and some Russian peacekeepers who operate in the region have told the BBC that they are ready to rip off their peacekeeping badges and fight the Georgians should the tense standoff turn violent.

South Ossetia broke away from Georgia after a bloody war at the beginning of the 1990s.

The province wants to unite with Russia, but Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili has vowed to bring it back into the fold.

The real conflict, according to Mr Saakashvili, is between Russia and Georgia.

Both have been building up their military presence in the region. Locals say that every night villages across South Ossetia come under fire, each side blaming the other for the shelling.

The conflict, analysts believe, could be resolved peacefully but only if Russia stays away from it.

Tbilisi is watching Mr Kokoity's visit to Moscow closely. Many here feel that it is now up to Russia to decide what turn the standoff could take.




SEE ALSO:
Georgia questions 'Ossetia deal'
20 Jul 04  |  Europe
Georgian police freed in Ossetia
09 Jul 04  |  Europe
S Ossetia peace talks falter
01 Jul 04  |  Europe
Georgians 'sent to rebel region'
31 May 04  |  Europe
Georgia offers peace to regions
26 May 04  |  Europe
Country profile: Georgia
06 May 04  |  Country profiles


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