South Ossetia said earlier today that Georgian troops had opened fire on two villages in the separatist province, while Russian peacekeepers said eight Georgian warplanes had flown into the region during the morning. Georgia has denied both allegations, and says the situation on the ground is calm.
Eduard Kokoity told British Ambassador to Georgia Denis Keefe: "We have indisputable evidence that a large-scale military operation will start here by September. This is Georgia's plan currently being implemented by [President Mikheil] Saakashvili's regime."
The conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia intensified last Friday night when Georgian forces shelled the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, leaving six South Ossetians dead and another 15 wounded. The province has evacuated hundreds of women and children to Russia in the past week.
Kokoity said Georgian authorities have been issuing warnings to residents of Georgian villages in South Ossetia that Tbilisi will seize the areas by September. However, he said 'volunteers' from abroad will flood into South Ossetia and defend the province in the event of an all-out Georgian attack.
Georgia has dismissed widespread fears that war will break out in the region, and says South Ossetia and Russia, which tacitly supports the province, are both trying to create a false impression of escalating violence.
A top peacekeeping official from the separatist province said on Wednesday that he will refuse to attend a bilateral meeting with a Georgian minister that had been scheduled for Thursday.
Boris Chochiyev, who co-chairs the Joint Control Commission for Georgian-Ossetian Conflict Resolution, a multilateral peacekeeping force, said he would not meet with Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili, but proposed that the commission hold a session on Friday involving all members - Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia, and the Russian province of North Ossetia.
Georgia has rejected the Joint Control Commission as "outdated," and says the commission favors the South Ossetian leadership.
South Ossetia and another Georgian breakaway republic, Abkhazia, broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, gaining de facto independence after bloody conflicts with Tbilisi.