Georgia says Russian tanks mean 'war' in South Ossetia
Russia sent troops and dozens of tanks into the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia today, throwing the two former Soviet neighbours into a sudden yet undeclared state of war.
In the most serious regional crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, at least 50 tanks – and possibly many more – rumbled through the Roki tunnel, which cuts through the Caucasus mountains separating South Ossetia from the Russian province of North Ossetia.
"One hundred and fifty Russian tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles have entered South Ossetia,” President Saakashvili of Georgia told reporters in Tbilisi. “This is a clear intrusion on another country’s territory. We have Russian tanks on our territory, jets on our territory in broad daylight."
Mr Saakashvili added that Georgian forces had downed two Russian jet fighters over Georgian territory.
Georgia mobilised its reservists yesterday and launched a military offensive to regain control over South Ossetia, which broke away from Georgia after it gained independence.
Fighting raged today around the city of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, as Georgian troops backed by tanks and warplanes pounded separatist forces, who are mostly Russian citizens backed by Moscow. This afternoon as the Russian tanks rolled in, Georgian officials declared that they had secured the city.