Georgia declares state of war with Russia
TBLISI, Georgia (CNN) -- Georgia declared a state of war Saturday as fierce battles with Russia military over the breakaway region of South Ossetia entered their second day.
A burning appartment building, damaged by a Russian airstrike is seen the northern Georgian town of Gori.
1 of 2 Russia has launched a full-scale military invasion of Georgia, President Mikhail Saakashvili said during a brief news conference Saturday afternoon.
"We are dealing with absolutely criminal and crazy acts of irresponsible and reckless decision makers, which is on the ground producing dramatic and tragic consequences," Saakashvili said.
Saakashvili compared the Russian invasion, which he called unprovoked, to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
President George W. Bush called for an immediate halt to the fighting saying the United States is "deeply concerned."
"We have urged an immediate halt to the violence and a standown by all troops, and call for end to the Russian bombings and a return by the parties to the status quo of August the sixth," he said in a statement Saturday.
Russian paratroopers entered the capital of South Ossetia on Saturday as part of a military operation that Russia said was intended to force the Georgian side to cease fire.
Separatist-backed South Ossetian sources reported about 1,600 people have died and 90 have been wounded in the capital of Tskhinvali after two days of fighting, but Georgian officials said the figure was inflated. The Georgians said they didn't have their own death toll, but it would likely be closer to 100.
Inna Gagloyeva, the spokeswoman for the South Ossetian Information and Press Committee, told the Interfax news agency the capital was being "massively shelled" with artillery guns.
It was also unclear which side was in control of Tskhinvali on Saturday, with the Georgian side saying fighting still raged but the Russians saying they have "liberated" the city.
"Battalion task forces have fully liberated Tskhinvali of Georgian armed forces and started pushing Georgian units out of the area of responsibility of the peacekeeping forces," said General Vladimir Boldyrev, commander of the Russian Ground Forces, in an interview with Interfax.
Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, told a news conference that the paratroopers will "implement the operation of enforcing peace" on both sides.
Nogovitsyn also confirmed that Georgians had shot down two Russian aircraft.
Russia said the troops were also reinforcing the Russian peacekeepers already in South Ossetia.
"Our peacekeepers, along with reinforcement units, are currently conducting an operation to force the Georgian side to accept peace," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said at the Kremlin, according to the RIA-Novosti news agency. "They are also responsible for protecting the population."
Interfax said 15 peacekeepers were killed in the Friday attack by Georgian troops. Russia has opened a criminal probe into their deaths, Interfax reported.
Georgia, a former Soviet Republic, is a pro-Western ally of the United States intent on asserting its authority over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which both have strong Russian-backed separatist movements.
Russia moved troops into South Ossetia early Friday after Georgia launched an operation in the breakaway region when its unilateral cease-fire was met with what it said was artillery fire from separatists that killed 10 people, including peacekeepers and civilians. Watch images of crashed Georgian war plane »
Russia charged that Georgia had targeted its peacekeepers stationed in the region. Watch Georgian minister describe fighting in South Ossetia »
Medvedev said Saturday that Georgia must be held responsible for the situation in South Ossetia.
"The people responsible for this humanitarian disaster need to be held liable for what they have done," Medvedev said. He said the humanitarian problems were caused by "the aggression launched by the Georgian side against the South Ossetian civilians and Russian peacekeepers."
Russian officials said more than 30,000 refugees have left South Ossetia and crossed into Russia over the past two days, since fighting began, Interfax reported.
A Red Cross official in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi was unable to provide refugee or casualty figures Saturday morning because she said aid workers were still gathering information and visiting hospitals in South Ossetia and western Georgia, where she said two towns suffered damage overnight.
Maia Kardava, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross delegation in Tbilisi, said Russian forces bombarded military and civilian targets the port town of Poti, on Georgia's Black Sea coast. Georgian officials said eight Georgians were killed in the port town.
In the town of Senaki, just inland from Poti, Russian forces damaged a railway line, a military base, and a center housing civilians who fled from nearby Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian region.
The Georgian town of Gori, about 35 miles northwest of Tbilisi, came under attack from Russian aircraft, Georgian officials said.