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Authorities in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia have pulled back from an earlier "general mobilization" of its forces after heavy exchanges of gunfire with Georgian forces.

Separatist officials said Georgians bombarded their capital Tskhinvali and two nearby villages with mortar shells overnight, and that at least one person was killed and several wounded.

A spokeswoman for the separatist government, Irina Gagloyeva, said the breakaway region would respond with heavy weapons if the shelling resumes.

Georgian authorities blamed the clash on separatist forces, saying they had attacked a Georgian checkpoint and several Georgian villages.

Russia's Foreign Ministry today said Georgia's actions in South Ossetia were open aggression.

South Ossetia and Georgia's other separatist region, Abkhazia, broke away from Georgian central government control in the early 1990s. Tensions have increased recently between Tbilisi and the separatists, who maintain close ties with Russia.

compiled from agency reports