US faults Russia for rising violence in Georgia

Russia's use of overwhelming military force against Georgia, including strategic bombers and ballistic missiles, is disproportionate to any threat from the former Soviet state and could escalate tensions in the volatile region, a senior US official said Saturday. The Bush administration official, who briefed reporters on condition his name not be used because of the sensitive nature of the situation, said Russia has attacked areas in Georgia that are far away from the separatist province of South Ossetia, where the fighting has centered. The official also said the Russian military is striking civilian targets. "They have employed strategic bombers - the most potent air weaponry that is in the Russian arsenal .... They actually launched ballistic missile attacks on Georgian territory," the official said. He also said Russia has sent more than 1,000 paratroopers and armor into the region. Russian bombing has also taken place in Abkhazia, a separate breakaway region of Georgia, far from South Ossetia, the official said. "This is a dangerous escalation in the crisis," the official said. Russia's military response "marks a severe escalation and is being conducted in areas far, far from the South Ossetia zone of conflict, which is where the Russian side has said it needed to protect its citizens and peacekeepers. So the response has been far disproportionate to whatever threat Russia had been citing."