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Putin defends actions in South Ossetia

Putin defends actions in South Ossetia
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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin responded to the conflict in South Ossetia by flying to neighbouring North Ossetia, which is part of Russia. He said the trip was to discuss the influx of refugees.

On arrival in the city of Vladikavkaz, Putin said Russia’s actions in South Ossetia are legally, totally legitimate and urged Georgia to immediately stop what he called its “aggression” against South Ossetia.

Putin accused Georgia of trying to drag other countries into a military conflict in its separatist region of South Ossetia. He added: “Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO … is driven by its attempt to drag other nations and peoples into its bloody adventures.”

As he spoke, refugees continued to stream out of South Ossetia into Russia. A top government official in Moscow said more than 30,000 people had crossed the border since the fighting started.

Hundreds of buses are ferrying people from South Ossetia’s capital Tskhinvali to North Ossetia. The fighting has cut off essential services and one resident of Tskhinvali said “We have no water. We get our gas from Russia and now it has been cut off. Where are we going to get water from? I don’t know.”

As the fighting escalated, people also fled the Georgian capital, on the outskirts of which a military base was reportedly attacked by Russian planes. Tbilisi Airport was crowded with passengers. One woman waiting to fly out said there was no need for a war: “I feel a lot for the Georgian people as my husband is here, but I also feel for the Russians because my mother lives there. I would like to ask everyone to stop this war because nobody wants it.”

Several countries, including Britain, have advised their citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Georgia and suggested those already there should consider whether they need to stay.