MOSCOW (AFP) — One person was killed and four wounded in Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia during crossfire between Georgian and South Ossetian troops, the separatist authorities said on Sunday.
Tskhinvali, the capital of the self-proclaimed independent republic, came "under intense fire" from automatic guns and grenade-launchers from nearby Georgian villages, the South Ossetian interior ministry said in a statement.
South Ossetian troops "reacted by returning fire on Georgian positions," the ministry added, saying that the exchange went on for "some four hours."
"Five people were wounded, three seriously," and one of those died of his injuries, South Ossetian authorities announced late Sunday on their website.
Peacekeepers from Russia, Georgia and North Ossetia, as well as monitors from the pan-European security group OSCE, arrived at the site and also came under fire, but none were wounded, their joint general staff announced.
"Observers did not manage to determine who opened fire first," the officials said as quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency.
Meanwhile, Georgia accused Russians of illegally opening a new military base in Georgia's other separatist republic of Abkhazia. Moscow denied the charge.
A representative of Abkhazia's pro-Georgian government in exile, Tornike Kilanava, said that military hardware had been transferred Sunday to the base in Agubedie and that air defence systems had been installed there.
Russia denied the report as "disinformation aimed at discrediting peacekeeping forces in the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict zone," defence ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke from Georgian control during wars in the early 1990s that left thousands dead and forced tens of thousands from their homes.
Georgia has repeatedly accused Russia of sponsoring separatists, while Russia charges Tbilisi with seeking to seize the two republics by force.
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