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S.Ossetia could repel Georgia attack without Russian help - envoy

The de facto independent republic of South Ossetia would be capable of repelling on its own any attack by Georgia, without help from Moscow, a South Ossetian envoy to Russia said on Friday.
MOSCOW, July 11 (RIA Novosti) - The de facto independent republic of South Ossetia would be capable of repelling on its own any attack by Georgia, without help from Moscow, a South Ossetian envoy to Russia said on Friday.

"South Ossetia has all the necessary forces and means to repel any aggression," Dmitry Medoyev said, adding that he did not however believe that war would break out.

The envoy also said the mainly Russian peacekeeping contingent in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone should be increased.

"I believe the peacekeeping mandate should be implemented in full. If Georgian aircraft fly there, should the peacekeepers use slingshots? They are there to protect the population from war," Medoyev told RIA Novosti.

He also said South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity would on Friday discuss with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the course of the peacekeeping operation in the breakaway Georgian republic.

Medoyev also accused South Ossetian provisional administration head Dmitry Sanakoyev of financing "terrorist attacks."

In November 2006, two sets of presidential elections took place in South Ossetia. Kokoity won the vote in the secessionist regions of South Ossetia, and Sanakoyev won the Tbilisi-backed polls in the areas of the republic it continues to control.

Kokoity has called Sanakoyev and the pro-Georgian South Ossetian administration "a group of puppets". The Russian Foreign Ministry has backed his statement.

Medoyev also said Russia has prevented a war between Georgia and South Ossetia. "When, a couple of days ago, the president of South Ossetia was receiving OSCE ambassadors, peace was hanging by a thread," he said.

"The Georgian military had scheduled a military operation against South Ossetia for 18:00 Tuesday. Military equipment was concentrated in the high grounds of the conflict zone from where they usually fire on our republic. However, thanks to Russian flights over the positions, the Georgian soldiers dispersed and the situation was saved," Medoyev elaborated.

On Thursday, Georgia recalled its ambassador from Russia after Moscow admitted it had sent aircraft to monitor the situation in South Ossetia earlier this week due to fears of a Georgian invasion of the de facto independent republic.

South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian republic, Abkhazia, have been the source of rising tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi this year. Recent events have involved explosions and shootouts in Abkhazia as well as the brief arrest of Georgian officers by South Ossetia.

Moscow recently moved to establish closer ties with the separatist regions and sent additional peacekeepers into Abkhazia, saying they were needed to deter "new bloodshed." Georgia has accused Moscow of trying to annex its territory.

Medoyev also said that North Ossetia, a part of Russia, was ready to help South Ossetia in the event of an armed clash with Georgia.

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Estimates differ as to the amount of people who lost their lives in the subsequent violence from hundreds to 3,000. The pro-Western Georgian leadership has said it is determined to bring both South Ossetia and Abkhazia back under central control.

Moscow's ongoing support for pro-Russian secessionists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is a direct consequence of the West's recognition of Kosovo, which declared unilateral independence from Serbia in February.

Shortly after Kosovo had declared independence, the upper and lower houses of the Russian parliament said in a joint statement that, "Now that the situation in Kosovo has become an international precedent, Russia should take into account the Kosovo scenario...when considering ongoing territorial conflicts."

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