"During the whole day, Russian jet planes have been continuously attacking Georgian towns," President Saakashvili told journalists in Tbilisi. "They have been continuously attacking the town of Gori, in the middle of Georgia, which has nothing to do with South Ossetia."
Both sides blamed the other for starting the conflict.
Moscow has long supported South Ossetia and another Georgian rebel statelet, Abkhazia, and maintains a contingent of peacekeeping troops in both. The two republics won de facto independence through bitter civil wars in the early 1990s, and have since lived in legal limbo, unrecognized by the world community, which supports Georgia's claim of sovereignty over the whole territory of Soviet-era Georgia.
But two key developments have pushed these formerly "frozen conflicts" into the spotlight in recent months. The West's backing for Kosovo's independence from Serbia earlier this year, over Russian objections, created what Moscow calls a precedent for other breakaway territories. And the US-backed push to expand NATO into the former Soviet Union, taking in Ukraine and Georgia, has met ferocious resistance in Moscow. For Russia, the existence of breakaway territories in Georgia is a prime argument, frequently repeated by Mr. Medvedev to Western leaders, against Georgia's admission to NATO.