http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20110201_7461.php

Russia Fields Ballistic Missiles in South Ossetia, Report Says

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011

Russia has moved Tochka ballistic missiles to the breakaway Georgian territory of South Ossetia, Interfax reported last week (see GSN, Aug. 26, 2010).

"The Georgian special services have been informed about the presence of the rockets in South Ossetia, which are capable to effectively repel any aggression from Tbilisi," Georgia, an insider from Russia's Southern Military District told the news agency.

Also called the SS-21 Scarab, the short-range, single-warhead missile can hit targets within 75 miles, according to Interfax (Interfax, Jan. 24).

Georgia and Russia fought a brief war in summer 2008 after Tbilisi tried to re-exert control over South Ossetia. Since then, Moscow has recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and constructed military facilities in the two areas.

Georgia last week denounced the reported transfer of the nuclear-capable tactical weapons, Civil Georgia reported.

“The deployment ... poses a direct and overt threat to the peaceful population and territory of Georgia. By taking such actions Russia follows through with its aggressive policy directed towards the destruction of the Georgian statehood and elimination of the peaceful population of Georgia, as well as towards causing large-scale instability in the Caucasus and throughout the Black Sea Region,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“It needs to be emphasized that it was with the use of [Tochka] systems that the Russian Federation completely destroyed the city of Bamut (Republic of Chechnya) and eliminated its peaceful population. The ballistic missiles of this system can be equipped with cluster (consisting of 50 bomblets) and nuclear warheads,” the statement adds.

“The deployment of the offensive rocket systems in the occupied region points clearly to the Russian Federation's plans to launch open military aggression against Georgia,” the Foreign Ministry said (Civil Georgia, Jan. 24).

The U.S. State Department on Thursday urged Moscow to "avoid any actions that may raise tensions or could contribute to insecurity or instability in the region."

"We take this opportunity to once again call for the resumption of meaningful international monitoring presences in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia," the department said in a statement.

"The continued absence of transparency and international monitoring in South Ossetia makes it impossible for the international community to assess reports such as these," the statement continues. "This underscores the need for full implementation of the August 2008 cease-fire commitments agreed to by both Russia and Georgia. It is also important to redouble efforts within the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] to find ways to increase transparency regarding military forces and deployments" (U.S. State Department release, Jan. 27).