Georgia says 50 killed in battle with pro-separatists

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The Independent Online
MOSCOW - Fighters who have infiltrated from southern Russia into Georgia to help separatists in the Black Sea region of Abkhazia clashed yesterday with troops loyal to the government in Tbilisi and 50 men were reported to have been killed, writes Helen Womack.

Georgian officials said at least 40 attackers, including volunteers from other regions as well as Abkhazians, had died in the overnight battle in the resort town of Gagra. The Abkhazians claimed dozens of Georgian dead but failed to mention their casualties.

In addition, three Caucasian gunmen were reported to have been killed while taking part in an attack on the railway station in Sukhumi, the Abkhazian capital.

The fighting could be a foretaste of heavy bloodshed. Russia's Boris Yeltsin and Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze, due to meet in Moscow on 3 September, are striving for a political solution to avert a war which the Russian MP Gennady Sayenko said could be as bad as the Great Caucasian War of the 19th century.

Mr Yeltsin stressed yesterday that Russia respected Georgia's 'unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity' and called on the peoples of the northern Caucasus to 'check their emotions and not be drawn into a dangerous venture'.

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