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Russia denies use of cluster bombs in Georgia

17:11 15/08/2008
MOSCOW, August 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's top military official denied on Friday claims by a U.S.-based human rights group that Moscow had used cluster bombs in its recent military conflict with Georgia.

"Cluster bombs are indiscriminate killers that most nations have agreed to outlaw," said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. "Russia's use of this weapon is not only deadly to civilians, but also an insult to international efforts to avoid a global humanitarian disaster of the kind caused by landmines."

The organization said that on August 12, Russian planes had dropped cluster bombs on the town of Ruisi in the Kareli district of Georgia, killing three and wounding five. It also said that on the same day, "a cluster strike in the center of the town of Gori killed at least eight civilians and injured dozens."

The rights group has accused both Russia and Georgia of killing civilians "through indiscriminate attacks" during the conflict.

However, speaking at a daily news briefing, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the General Staff, said "We did not use cluster bombs, and what's more there was absolutely no necessity to do so."

He in turn accused Georgian troops of planting mines in Tskhinvali as they retreated from the South Ossetian capital earlier this week.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Georgia on Friday as "a sign of U.S. support" for its ally and to push for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia under a French-brokered peace deal.

Nogovitsyn reiterated that Russian peacekeepers were still in the Georgian city of Gori, close to the de facto border with South Ossetia. He said they were guarding weapons and other military equipment abandoned during the fighting. He said Russian troops had contacted city authorities and arranged aid distribution via local clergymen.

He also said Russia, Georgia and its two breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia should sign a new peacekeeping deal.

Russia, Georgia and South Ossetia earlier each maintained 500 peacekeepers in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone. Russia has accused Georgian peacekeepers of attacking their Russian colleagues when Georgia launched its attack on Tskhinvali on August 8. The self-proclaimed republic has said it will now not allow Georgian peacekeepers into its territory.

Nogovitsyn said, "We must have guarantees that peacekeepers will be ensuring peace, rather than war."

The general said Georgia had agreed to exchange lists of servicemen killed, injured or captured during five days of fighting with Russia.

Nogovitsyn said it was still too early to hand control of Tskhinvali over to civilian authorities. He said not a single civilian institution was currently operating in the city. The general also welcomed outside assistance for the devastated capital.

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RIA NovostiRussia denies use of cluster bombs in Georgia

17:11 15/08/2008 Russia's top military official denied on Friday claims by a U.S.-based human rights group that Moscow had used cluster bombs in its recent military conflict with Georgia. >>

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