Tbilisi, Georgia Russia and Georgia clashed on land and at sea Sunday despite a Georgian cease-fire offer and claim of withdrawal from the separatist province of South Ossetia, officials from both countries said.
Georgian officials said Russian planes bombed an area near the Georgian capital's airport and Russian tanks moved from South Ossetia into Georgian territory, heading toward a strategic city before being turned back.
A Russian general said Georgian forces directed heavy fire at positions around Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, early today, even though Georgia had claimed to be withdrawing from the shattered city and called for a cease-fire.
"Active fighting has been going on in several zones," the Interfax news agency quoted Maj. Gen. Marat Kulakhmetov as saying. He is commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent that has been in South Ossetia since 1992.
Russia also claimed to have sunk a Georgian boat that tried to attack Russian vessels in the Black Sea.
Russia appears determined to subdue diminutive, U.S.-backed Georgia despite international condemnation. Russia ignored a wave of calls to observe Georgia's cease-fire, saying it must first be assured that Georgian troops had indeed pulled back from South Ossetia.
International envoys were trying to end the conflict before it spreads throughout the Caucasus, a region plagued by ethnic tensions. But it was unclear what inducements or pressure the envoys could bring to bear, or to what extent either side was truly sensitive to world opinion.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said one of the Russian raids on the airport area came a half hour before the arrival of the foreign ministers of France and Finland.
Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Temur Yako-bashvili said Russian tanks tried to cross from South Ossetia into the territory of Georgia proper, but were turned back by Georgian forces. He said the tanks apparently were trying to approach Gori, but did not fire on the city of about 50,000, which sits on Georgia's only significant east-west highway.
An Associated Press photographer in Gori said early today that the city appeared quiet.
Russia also sent naval vessels to patrol off Georgia's Black Sea coast, but denied Sunday that the move was aimed at establishing a blockade.
The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman as saying that Georgian missile boats twice tried to attack Russian ships, which fired back and sank one of the Georgian vessels.
South Ossetia broke away from Georgian control in 1992. Russia granted passports to most of its residents and the region's separatist leaders sought to absorb the region into Russia.
Georgia, whose troops have been trained by American soldiers, began an offensive to regain control over South Ossetia overnight Friday, launching heavy rocket and artillery fire and air strikes that pounded the regional capital Tskhinvali. Georgia says it was responding to attacks by separatists.
In response, Russia launched massive artillery shelling and air attacks on Georgian troops.