Sarkozy Arrives in Moscow to Mediate Crisis

In the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, the streets were packed with people waving red and white Georgian flags, chanting anti-Russian slogans and listening to speakers denounce the Russian offensive. The crowd became angry when a speaker announced that Russians were bombing villages in the north despite the cease-fire, although there was no way to confirm the allegation.

In the hours before the cease-fire, however, Russia's military was busy. A Reuters correspondent reported bombs landing near him in the town of Gori shortly before the cease-fire took effect. A reporter for ABC News said that outside of the town of Gori were signs of a hasty retreat by Georgian troops, the road littered with abandoned military equipment, including tanks.

Russia also launched a last-minute offensive against Georgian troops clinging to a section of Abkhazia, a second province that has effectively split away from Georgia with Russian approval. An Associated Press reporter said he counted 135 Russian military vehicles, including tanks, headed for the region today.

With the guns finally silent, the two sides began to assess the human toll.

Russia estimated that more than 1,600 people have been killed in South Ossetia since Friday, most of them Ossetians with Russian passports. The figures could not be independently confirmed, but refugees said hundreds had been killed.

Video of the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on the news channel Russia Today shows a ruined city, with block after block of buildings gutted or demolished by heavy weapons.

The United Nations estimated that the five days of fighting left nearly 100,000 people homeless by either destroying their homes or sending them fleeing for safety. The UN said it sent the first of two humanitarian flights into Georgia carrying enough food and supplies for 30,000 people.

Political tensions remained high.

Poland's president and the leaders of four ex-Soviet republics headed to Georgia for a meeting with Saakashvili to send a signal of solidarity with Tbilisi.

"We may say that the Russian state has once again shown its face, its true face," said Poland's Lech Kaczynski, who will be joined by counterparts from Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine and Latvia.

The U.S. and its allies are considering expelling Moscow from an exclusive club of powerful nations dubbed the G-8 countries and canceling an upcoming joint NATO-Russia military exercise, Bush administration officials said Tuesday.

President George W. Bush sternly warned Russia on Monday in a Rose Garden news conference to end its "brutal escalation" of violence.

"Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century," Bush said.

The fighting erupted last week when Georgia moved to regain control of South Ossetia. The province, which has a largely Russian population, broke away from Georgia in the 1990s and has had Russia's blessing since then. A second province, Abkhazia, followed suit.

Georgian troops were able to quickly move into the South Ossetian capital, but Russian tanks and planes promptly chased them out.

The crisis threatened to draw Western countries into the conflict. Georgia is an ally of the Bush administration and has sought membership in NATO.

The West also was concerned because vital oil pipelines run through Georgia. Any disruptions of those pipelines could send world oil prices upwards again.

As a precaution, the British oil company BP shut down its Georgia pipeline today. There are no reports of any damage to pipelines in Georgia.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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