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Big explosion heard in Tskhinvali

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, April 13
A large explosion was heard in the capital of Georgian breakaway region South Ossetia on the night of April 11. The explosion was so strong that it was heard in nearby villages and the Georgian town of Gori, 30 kilometres from Tskhinvali. The separatist side has not reported any dead or wounded.

On the morning of April 12 the South Ossetian Press Committee reported that the explosion was the result of a “Georgian mortar attack on Tskhinvali” conducted from nearby Georgian villages. The Georgian Interior Ministry swiftly denied this, calling the allegation “absurd”. Vladimer Jugeli, head of the Shida Kartli regional police, stated that it was “simply impossible for such a big explosion to be caused by any kind of the artillery.” According to Jugeli the blast occurred at Tskhinvali central market, however he didn’t posses any information on its possible cause.

Later on Sunday the de facto South Ossetian Deputy Defence Minister Ibragim Gasseev also denied there had been a “Georgian attack.” “The situation [in Tskhinvali] is calm, everything is under control. The information broadcast by some media about a Georgian mortar assault on Tskhinvali doesn’t correspond to reality,” he said, as quoted by the Russian Interfax news agency. However he didn’t deny or confirm the fact of the blast itself.

“The explosion was so strong that it even broke windows in several houses in our villages,” stated a resident of nearby Georgian village Nikozi, interviewed by local journalists.

Earlier this month Georgian officials stated that Russian troops and separatist forces have stepped up their activities on the administrative borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Tbilisi connects this with possible “planned provocations” that may take advantage of the internal instability in Georgia caused by the opposition protest rallies. “The number of Russian troops in the conflict zones has increased. The Russian 58th Army is on full military readiness, and Russian military vessels are entering our waters,” said Shota Malashkhia, Georgian MP and the Chair of the Georgian Parliament’s Commission on Territorial Integrity Issues.

“I think that some of Russian military commanders are still discussing the possibility of a new attack on Georgia, in order to accuse me of provocations and attempting to distract the attention of my opposition to an invasion by Russia,” stated Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in an interview with Russian Newsweek magazine published on April 12. “We have information about more Russian tanks being deployed in Abkhazia one week ago and we know that there are 5,000 Russian soldiers in Abkhazia and the same number in South Ossetia,” the President stated.

The Russian Defence Ministry denied Saakashvili’s allegations, saying that Russian troops in the Georgian breakaway regions and in bordering Russian regions are not preparing for any kind of operation. “Military readiness status has not been declared and is not in force now,” stated a special representative of the Ministry, as quoted by the Russian RIA-Novosti news service.