Military


South Ossetia - Daily Chronology

Thursday 14 August 2008

On Thursday 14 August 2008 the President of the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity, told a news conference in Moscow that only Russian peacekeepers will be stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He stated that no Georgian peacekeepers "who did not just flee, but shot basely and treacherously their Russian and Ossetian colleagues in their backs" will be admitted to South Ossetia. According to Kokoity, President Dmitry Medvedev and South Ossetian and Abkhazian leaders had agreed that as the situation had changed, the security zone would have to be reconsidered as well. As for the participation of the international community, the republics are prepared to discuss only possible observer missions with the OSCE, the EU and other organizations. The observer missions will not be allowed to enter South Ossetia, and will be monitoring on Georgia's territory.

On Thursday 14 August 2008 a new round of explosions was heard near Gori, just after Russian leaders said they were pulling out of the Georgian city, which has become a focal point in the conflict over the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgian leaders said Russian forces had "changed their minds" about withdrawing, and instead sent in additional troops to Gori, and returned to the Georgian port of Poti. The explosions and smoke seen billowing near the Georgian city of Gori came as Russian and Georgian leaders painted very different pictures of the scene. The Georgian city of 50,000 lies just south of South Ossetia, the separatist province where much of the fighting has taken place. Western media reports said on Thursday morning that irregular paramilitary groups tagging behind regular Russian forces had engaged in "looting, burning, murdering and rape" in Georgia.

Russian military officials said their troops were told not to enter Gori anymore. Russian Major-General Vyacheslav Borisov, a deputy commander with the Russian airborne troops, said he himself gave that command. Borisov said that Georgian police will start working to carry out their normal functions, and that reports of the city being destroyed are wrong. He said he had just been to the city and the buildings were in "normal condition," and that electricity and water were flowing.

The Georgian police failed to enter into Gori so far, despite earlier agreement with the Russian forces to allow them inside the town on August 14. Georgian police vehicles were lined up outside Gori, an eyewitness said, and there are talks underway between the Georgian official representatives and Russian military officials.

President Medvedev called on Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia to remain there as a deterrent to possible attacks by Georgia. At a meeting with army officers who were involved in the fighting, he said that the current goal is to maintain the ceasefire and ensure the withdrawal of Georgian troops. Medvedev said that the situation in South Ossetia continues to be very difficult. "In such conditions we have to keep our peacekeeping contingent in constant readiness. This will be a clear constraining factor for the Georgian side and a necessary condition for overcoming the future humanitarian catastrophe".

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Georgia said dozens of Russian tanks rolled into a strategic city and seized a military base, violating an EU-mediated agreement to end a six-day conflict. Russia said some of its soldiers went into the Georgian city of Gori, but denied the report of tanks. Russia and Georgia agreed to the cease-fire plan after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met Tuesday 12 August 2008 with leaders in Moscow and Tblisi.

But Georgian officials said dozens of tanks were heading into Gori, a town that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russia pummeled in the attacks. "As I speak the Russian tanks are attacking the town of Gori and are rampaging through the town," he said. The city of 50,000 people sits on Georgia's only significant east-west road about 15 miles south of South Ossetia, the separatist province where much of the fighting has taken place. Russian officials said they have no military forces in Gori, but some Russians went into the city to try to implement the truce with local Georgian officials. A Russian commander said Georgian troops had been slow to withdraw from the front lines.

Around midday, Reuters quoted eyewitnesses as saying that Russian troops had set up at least two checkpoints on the outskirts of the Gori in what Georgia said was a breach of a cease-fire. One eyewitness said the troops had advanced south from South Ossetia to occupy an abandoned Georgian artillery base some 4-5 kilometers from downtown Gori. Andrei Nesterenko, an official spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, stressed that Russian reinforcement units were still near the town of Gori, and were not moving anywhere as they were preoccupied with a serious problem. They found a large abandoned stockpile of munitions and combat equipment near Gori. It would be wrong to leave it as is, and the troops are taking steps to dismantle the munitions so that they could do no harm to the civilian population.

Subsequent reports suggested a convoy of Russian tanks and armored vehicles had left Gori and was traveling on the road to Tbilisi, but Russian news reports said they were headed to an abandoned Georgian arsenal outside Gori. Reports that an armed column of Russian troops was proceeding on a major route from Gori toward Tbilisi have been dismissed by Georgian authorities. "I'd like to calm everybody down," Deputy Foreign Minister Ekaterine Zguladze told a news conference. "The Russian military is not advancing towards the capital."

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered an end to military action in Georgia. Russian military officials say they will not move their troops or peacekeepers from their current positions. "I have made a decision to end the operation to force the Georgian authorities to peace. The goals of the operation have been achieved," he said at the Kremlin. "The safety of our peacekeeping forces and the civilian population has been established. The aggressor has been punished and has suffered significant losses. Its armed forces are disorganized. Nevertheless, if there are little pockets of opposition and other aggressive manifestations, we will make a decision to liquidate them."

Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze told Reuters just after Medvedev's announcement that Tbilisi needs more evidence to confirm that military operations have ended, and remains "prepared for everything. ... Everyone in this situation needs a signed binding agreement." Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, whose country currently chairs the OSCE, said on August 11 that the Georgian government had signed a cease-fire proposal worked out by the OSCE and EU, and was "carefully optimistic" that Russia would agree to the plan to end fighting in South Ossetia. Georgian officials said that different locations throughout the country were being targeted by Russian bombing raids.

These announcements came after Tuesday's bombing of the Georgian town of Gori by Russian aircraft. Just hours before the Russian president spoke, Tbilisi said Russia carried out an aerial bombardment of the government offices and an outdoor market in the city of Gori, killing six people including a child and a Dutch journalist. According to media reports, Gori's post office and university were on fire and the town was all but deserted on August 12. Russian officials denied that Russian forces bombed Gori. Georgian officials remained wary, claiming that Russian forces bombed the eastern towns of Kareli and Ruisi even after Medvedev's announcement. The government's claim was confirmed by an RFE/RL correspondent in the area.

Russian Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, told reporters in Moscow that Russian troops "will continue carrying out their tasks" while remaining at the same locations they were at the time when this order was issued. "While we have received the order to cease fire," Nogovitsyn said, "this does not mean we have ceased all actions, particularly our intelligence activities and so on. That would be simply unreasonable. We are trying to keep the situation under control and, most importantly, we are waiting for Georgia's official reaction."

Moscow denied Georgia's assertion that Russian troops were moving in on the capital Tbilisi. The allegation was made by Georgia's Ministry of Defence. At the same time, Russia's intelligence services had not registered any withdrawal of Georgian troops from the military conflict zone in South Ossetia. According to Deputy Chief of General Staff of Russia's Armed Forced Anatoly Nogovitsyn, even if Georgian troops have been ordered to pull out of the territory controlled by the peacekeeping mission, there are still no signs of withdrawal.

Medvedev met in Moscow with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the current president of the European Union. Medvedev told Sarkozy it is now time to discuss the "final resolution" of the crisis, if two conditions are met. "First," he said, "all Georgian troops must return to their original positions and these military formations must be partially demilitarized. Our second condition is the signing of a legally binding document on the nonuse of force."

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice followed the day's developments by urging Russia and Georgia to end hostilities, saying progress apparently had been made toward a cease-fire but that it was important that all parties stop fighting. "I believe that they believe that they have made some progress, and we welcome that and we certainly welcome the EU mediation," Rice told reporters at the White House after briefing President George W. Bush on French-led European Union efforts to mediate with Russia. "It is very important now that all parties cease fire," Rice said. "The Georgians have agreed to a cease-fire. The Russians need to stop their military operations as they have apparently said that they will, but those military operations really do now need to stop."

This came amid reports that some 100,000 people had been uprooted by the fighting. Government sources suggested that some 100,000 people have been uprooted by the ongoing conflict. Up to 12,000 people could be displaced within South Ossetia, local authorities said. Russian officials in North Ossetia indicated that there are some 30,000 people from South Ossetia now in the Russian Federation. Georgian authorities reported that several thousand people have fled from South Ossetia into Georgia proper. There were also reports of population movements within Georgia proper. In Gori, just south of South Ossetia, local officials told a visiting UNHCR team on Sunday 10 August 2008 that up to 80 percent of the population - some 56,000 people - had left. They said most had gone towards Tbilisi but would return once the threat eased.

The Regnum news agency reported that Georgian troops had burned down a 10th century Orthodox church while terrified civilians perished inside. The agency quoted eyewitness accounts of the atrocity after all-out fighting in Khetagurovo, a small village near the republic's capital Tskhinvali. Almost all of those fighting to defend the village were said to have been killed, but the report says the fate of others, mostly women and the elderly, turned out to be even more horrible. Eyewitnesses were said to have reported that Georgian tanks literally ran people down and that soldiers took almost all the women to another location. Their fate is still unknown.

Sergei Lavrov, speaking at a joint news conference with Finland's foreign minister in Moscow, highlighted the severity of the crimes committed by Georgian forces in their attack on South Ossetia, and said Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili can no longer be considered a partner. "The best thing would be for him to resign," Lavrov said, while stressing that Russia has "no plans to force anyone from power - this is not in our political culture at all. ..." Lavrov said, "We are not making it a condition for ceasing the current stage of military operations, but for the personal information of U.S. leaders, our position is that Mr. Saakashvili can no longer be our partner and it would be best for him to go."

"The fact that with his barbaric acts in South Ossetia, he [Saakashvili] has undermined the viability of the Georgian state, shows the Ossetian and Abkhaz peoples that they will not be safe together with Georgia," Lavrov said. "The crimes committed by the Tbilisi regime in South Ossetia merit investigation at an international tribunal," he said. Saakashvili "has killed our [Russian] citizens, ordered the crushing of women and children by tanks, and the burning alive of a group of girls herded into a cattle shed. And not only did he do all this on the background of European flags, but he declared that he was safeguarding American values," Lavrov said.

Lavrov said: "Russia supports the OSCE and EU line that a ceasefire agreement is absolutely essential, but we have questions over several points," in particular a stipulation that the peacekeeping format revert to the setup before August 7. "We can hardly agree to this, as it implies that Georgian so-called peacekeepers should be in South Ossetia... Georgian peacekeepers cannot be there. They committed crimes, shooting their own [Russian] colleagues, with whom they were serving."

Sergei Lavrov reiterated Russia's calls for an international war crimes trial for the Georgian leadership, which he said still poses a threat to Georgia's other rebel region, Abkhazia. The Russian position seems to be that Georgia's troop pullout from South Ossetia will not restore the status quo in the region because thousands of lives in Ossetia have already been lost. Hence, a troop withdrawal will not be enough. Georgia will have to be punished, most likely, by some international tribunal. Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin is the only official to have voiced it on the record.

Just before the Russian president's action, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the only way to end the conflict is for Georgia to withdraw from South Ossetia. Lavrov, spoke out against Georgia at a joint news conference with the Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb. He called for crimes committed by the Georgian military in South Ossetia to be investigated by the international tribunal in The Hague. Lavrov accused Georgian peacekeepers of firing on their Russian counterparts and believes they shouldn't be allowed back into the region. "They have discredited the status of peacekeepers," he said. "They have committed a crime - shooting at their companions with whom they have been serving in a joint peacekeeping force. One can't discuss the possibility of any form of Georgian military presence in South Ossetia."

France's proposals for a peace plan, which also included a Georgian peacekeeping presence in South Ossetia, were rejected by Russia at the United Nations Security Council on Monday. A fifth meeting of the UN Security Council ended in no decision made on the conflict in South Ossetia. The French side had prepared a draft resolution which is expected to be presented for consideration of the UN Security Council members in the nearest future. France says this resolution is going to be simple and straightforward, and will include four basic elements: an immediate cessation of hostilities, returning to the status quo which existed before violence escalated on August 6, respect for Georgia's integrity and international help in finding a solution. Georgia says it is completely happy with the principles outlined in France's draft resolution while Russia is not.

After the meeting Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin has commented to the media on Russia's stance. "The French draft is lacking a number of serious matters of principle: there is no principle qualification of what has happened in South Ossetia, no reference to Georgian aggression, no reference to the atrocities we have seen. You mentioned pulling out Russian forces as a gesture of our good will - it has nothing to do with good will! It has everything to do with the survival of South Ossetians! You should understand the situation: there is a small people exposed to possible attacks from Georgia. They are clearly outnumbered by the Georgian forces and worse equipped. So we pull out our forces, and what if the Georgians launch an attack again?" Churkin said.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili announced his country is to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), an alliance of former Soviet republics. Saakashvili made the announcement during a rally in the capital Tbilisi. In his speech he called on other countries in the union to leave the organisation. "We have decided that Georgia will leave the CIS," he said. "We urge Ukraine and other countries to also leave the Commonwealth of Independent States, which is dominated by Russia".

NATO said its April 2008 summit pledge that Georgia will one day become a member of the alliance still stands, despite fighting with Russia over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

Some of the strongest language has come from global broadcaster Russia Today, the Kremlin-controlled English-language satellite channel, which has run its coverage of the crisis under giant captions reading "genocide" and "devastation. Russian media coverage is taking its cue from the rhetoric of Russian officials like UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin and President Dmitry Medvedev, who have branded Georgia's offensive as genocide. Russian news coverage has featured nearly nonstop footage of shelled-out buildings, wounded civilians, and sobbing South Ossetian children.

There was a virtual blackout of information on Russian TV about attacks by Russian forces on targets in Georgia, including bombs dropped in the vicinity of the capital city, Tbilisi. Instead, Russian viewers have been shown horrific scenes of destruction in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, as well as interviews with distraught refugees. They relate stories of Georgian troops throwing grenades or running over civilians with tanks, and deliberately flooding basements to force women and children out of safe havens.

William Dunbar is a British citizen who worked as Tbilisi correspondent for Russia Today, Moscow's international English-language television service. Dunbar resigned his position Saturday when the broadcaster refused to air his reports after he informed viewers on live TV that Russian warplanes had bombed the central Georgian city of Gori. "I felt that I could no longer work for them because there was no real way that I could be able to report the facts, and they did not really want to know what was really going on in Georgia if it did not sort of fit with the agenda that they were trying to put out," Dunbar said.

A top Russian diplomat accused foreign media of pro-Georgian bias in their coverage of the ongoing conflict between Georgia and Russia over breakaway South Ossetia. "We want television screens in the West to be showing not only Russian tanks, and texts saying Russia is at war in South Ossetia and with Georgia, but also to be showing the suffering of the Ossetian people, the murdered elderly people and children, the destroyed towns of South Ossetia, and [regional capital] Tskhinvali. This would be an objective way of presenting the material," Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told a RIA Novosti news conference.

Georgian media has appeared heavily one-sided. Russian troops have been characterized as invaders who seek to snuff out Georgian democracy and independence. They have been compared to brutal Soviet invaders of Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili underscores his country's plight in numerous interviews with international media, which has prompted a charge from Russia that western journalists favor the Georgian side.

Monday 11 August 2008

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that the Russian military has blocked a central highway linking east and west Georgia. Russia troops entered the main part of Georgia's territory earlier on Monday, as Russia continued its peace enforcement operation to prevent further Georgian incursions into breakaway South Ossetia. Saakashvili said in press briefing at the Georgian Security Council: "This evening they [Russian troops] managed to reach the central highway and cut off eastern Georgia from the country's west."

Russian Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said that Russia would abide by the terms of the peacekeeping agreement for South Ossetia worked out between Georgia and Russia in 1992. "We are not moving beyond the boundaries," Nogovitsyn said. "This is a matter of principle. The 1992 agreement, which was signed by the Georgian side too, clearly defines the boundaries of responsibility of the Russian contingent, and the peacekeepers do not have the task of invading Georgian territory."

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev told President of Finland Tarja Halonen, as the head of the state holding the OSCE presidency, that he stood for the OSCE mission's presence in South Ossetia. Finland's President agreed that OSCE's presence was needed in the zone, and urged the parties to end hostilities. The United States joined other members of the Group of Seven industrial powers in endorsing mediation in the Russia-Georgia conflict by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and his Finnish counterpart Alexander Stubb.

Speaking to reporters in Tbilisi, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner spelled out the framework of a peace plan backed by the European Union. "Cease-fire, first. Access to the victims, second. Third, withdrawal of the troops, controlled withdrawal of the troops. Fourth, coming back to the table, negotiation, peace talks, political solution."

Russian planes continued bombing raids on Georgia Monday, ignoring international appeals for the country to observe Georgia's offer for a cease-fire. Russian leaders say Georgia had yet to fully honor the cease-fire, claiming that Georgian forces have continued to attack the breakaway province of South Ossetia's capital, Tskinvali.

Georgian officials said Russian warplanes bombed a location near Tblisi International Airport, and that Russia had launched what it called a massive aerial bombardment of Gori, a Georgian city not far from South Ossetia. Russian troops then occupied Gori, close to the breakaway region of South Ossetia, according to Georgia's National Security Council secretary Alexander Lomaia. Both Russian and Georgian officials deny that Russia had taken over the strategic city of Gori. A reporter for the Reuters news agency, who was in Gori Monday, said he saw no trace of Russian troops. But thousands of civilians have fled, fearing Russia is ready to overrun the city. "Georgian armed forces received an order to leave Gori and to fortify positions near Mtskheta to defend the capital," said Lomaia. "This is a total onslaught." Mtskheta is 24 kilometres (15 miles) from Tbilisi.

On August 11, 2008, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Washington of undermining Russia's attempts to restore peace in the South Ossetian conflict zone by flying 800 Georgian soldiers from Iraq to Georgia. In a stinging attack on the US, Putin told government ministers: "It's a pity that some of our partners, instead of helping, are trying to get in the way". He said the US was using "its military transport aircraft to relocate Georgia's military contingent from Iraq virtually into the conflict zone".

U.S. military aircraft have flown 800 Georgian troops and a number of armored vehicles back home from Iraq amid an armed conflict in breakaway South Ossetia. NBC reported on Monday that U.S. military transport planes had started to bring all the Georgian troops deployed in Iraq back home. "U.S. aircraft have made eight flights to bring Georgian troops home from Iraq," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said. Nogovitsyn pledged to take adequate measures. "We are ready to increase our forces in view of the relocation of Georgian troops." He said following Russia's deployment of 58th Army units to supplement its peacekeepers in South Ossetia, Georgian and Russian troop numbers in the conflict zone were around the same.

In a Kremlin meeting with Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov on Monday, Medvedev said: "A major part of the operation to force the Georgian side and the Georgian authorities to peace in South Ossetia has been completed". The President went on to say: "Tskhinvali is under the control of a strengthened Russian peacekeeping contingent." According to Georgian officials, Moscow has deployed an additional 10,000 troops to South Ossetia -- and there are strong indications that the Kremlin's aims are much broader than simply keeping that region in Moscow's orbit.

According to reports from Tbilisi, 45 Georgian soldiers and 40 civilians were killed in two days of violence in South Ossetia. Those figures contrast wildly with those released by South Ossetia and Russia, who say an estimated 2,000 people have lost their lives.

Sunday 10 August 2008

President Dmitry Medvedev described Georgia's actions in the conflict zone as genocide. He has ordered Russian prosecutors to collect evidence of the crimes committed there. "Georgia has exposed South Ossetia to a very crude and cynical aggression. People have died. Russian citizens have died, including local residents and peacekeepers. The actions of the Georgian side cannot be described as anything else but genocide. The information we have received suggests that horrible crimes were committed there. People were killed, burnt, run down by tanks, had their throats were cut," Medvedev said. The President went on to say that "the operation to restore peace will continue and those guilty will be punished".

Another UN Security Council session on the situation in South Ossetia has wrapped up in New York. Russia says it's not refusing to start talks with Georgia but believes negotiations can only be possible when Georgia pulls out its troops from South Ossetia and commits itself to a non-use of force agreement.

Russia's ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said "What legal terms can be used to describe what has been done by the Georgian leadership? Can we use ethnic cleansing for example? When about one third of the population of South Ossetia left it during several days and went north risking their lives - is it ethnic cleansing or not? Now, when 2,000 is killed out of the total population of 100,000 - is it genocide or not? How many civilians must die before we describe it as genocide?"

"Russian ground troops' armed invasion has already transformed into a full-scale occupation of parts of Georgian territory. The process of extermination of Georgian population and annihilation of Georgia's statehood is in full swing," said Irakly Alasania, Georgian ambassador to UN.

Another UN Security Council session on the situation in South Ossetia wrapped up in New York. Russia says it's not refusing to start talks with Georgia but believes negotiations can only be possible when Georgia pulls out its troops from South Ossetia and commits itself to a non-use of force agreement.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad warned Russia that the continuing assault on Georgia will complicate relations between Washington and Moscow. "I urge the Russian Federation to carefully consider the implications of this aggression against the sovereign and democratic state of Georgia ... Russia's relations with the United States and others in the international community will be affected by its continued assault on Georgia and its refusal to contribute to a peaceful solution of this crisis. ... We must condemn Russia's military assault on the sovereign state of Georgia, the violation of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the targeting of civilians and the campaign of terror against the Georgian population... Similarly, we need to condemn the destruction of Georgian infrastructure."

On August 10, 2008, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said "What we are asking is for all parties, including the Russians, to return to what we call the status quo ante of August 6th. This is before the most recent hostilities escalated. We are very concerned about the disproportionate response that we believe Russia has engaged in. ... there are reports that the Georgians have started to pull back from South Ossetia. This, if true, could help us lead to a peaceful solution. That is what President Bush had asked of the Georgians and the Russians as they work towards a cease-fire. ... President Bush does think that the Russian response has been disproportionate.... We have made it clear to the Russians that if the disproportionate and dangerous escalation on the Russian side continues, that this will have a significant long-term impact on U.S.-Russian relations."

On 09 August 2008 Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin had set one condition for setting talks, namely the withdrawal of Georgian forces from Tskhinvali. On August 10, 2008 he set a second condition negotiations, that Georgia should now sign a pledge that it will not again use force. This suggested to some observers that the Russians were holding out as long as they could before they actually agree to sit down and negotiate.

Georgia said it had ordered its troops in the breakaway region of South Ossetia to cease fire, after withdrawing its troops from South Ossetia's capital. There was no direct response from Russia to Georgia's offer to negotiate an end to three days of fierce fighting in the region. Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said Georgia was pulling its troops out of South Ossetia after Georgian casualties rose "into the hundreds".

On 10 August 2008 it was reported that Russia had expanded its bombing campaign to the Georgian capital. Russian jets targeted an aircraft-making plant near the airport on the outskirts of Tbilisi. South Ossetia's government said on its Web site that "thousands of civilians" remain buried beneath rubble in Tskhinvali, including more than 150 in the ruins of the city's hospital.

Russian commanders sent tanks from the separatist region of South Ossetia into Georgian territory, before being turned back by Georgian forces on Sunday. The Russian tanks appeared to be trying to reach Gori, Stalin's home town, but did not fire on the city. The Russians would be crossing a very dangerous red line if they advanced beyond the border between South Ossetia and into the rest of Georgia.

The Georgian government claimed that 6,000 Russian troops had deployed into South Ossetia, and 4,000 more had deployed to Abkhazia. The US military began flying 2,000 Georgian troops home from Iraq after Georgia recalled them.

Moscow remained unconvinced about Ukrainian claims of neutrality. Referring to the shooting down of a Russian Tu-22 bomber over Georgia, the Defence Ministry says the Georgian military would have needed an S-200 anti-aircraft system to carry out the attack. According to Russia, the Georgian army did not possess such equipment before the conflict. Only Russia and Ukraine are armed with S-200 anti-aircraft systems, which is leading Russian defence officials to suspect that Kiev may have sold the equipment to Georgia.

The president of South Ossetia claimed mercenaries took part in Georgia's offensive against the breakaway republic. Eduard Kokoity said Ukrainians, people from the Baltics as well as nationals from other countries were involved. Kokoity says that: "After the fighting in the city we found several bodies of citizens of the Baltic states and Ukraine. Later on I was informed that the bodies of several black men were found at the scene of a battle near school number 12. Kokoity said. He also said some corpses had the narrow eyes typical of people from Asia.

The Russian envoy in South Ossetia, Dmitry Medoyev, confirmed the South Ossetian President's claim that foreign mercenaries took part in the onslaught. "In yesterday's attack, the advancing tanks were supposedly crewed by Ukrainians. Two unidentified bodies found today are said to have black skin. Possibly they are Americans but we can't say for sure yet. We will be able to publish the official conclusions after carrying out special tests," Medoyev said.

By 10 August 2008 the death toll in the unrecognised republic had reached at least 2000, according to Russia's Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko. The Chief of Russian ground forces Igor Konashenkov claims Georgia's military action in Tskhinvali has resulted in the destruction of all hospitals, and many children have been killed. More than ten border villages have reportedly, also been burnt to the ground. Russian military officials said the 76th Airborne Brigade of the Russian Army had arrived in the conflict region. One section of the brigade was said to have flown to the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. Other troops were to move to the region by ground transport.

Saturday 09 August 2008

Russian warplanes carried out new airstrikes against Georgian military targets Saturday 09 August 2008, as fighting between the two sides reportedly spread to Abkhazia, another disputed region. South Ossetia's capital Tskinvali was in ruins as the region entered its second day of fighting between separatists and Georgian forces. At the same time, officials reported Russian warplanes hit targets in the breakaway region of Abkhazia. The countries disagree on whether Georgia has gained control of South Ossetia. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said there was little doubt that Georgia had taken over. Russia's peacekeeping command said on Saturday the country's troops have driven Georgian forces from the capital of the separatist republic of South Ossetia. "Tskhinvali has been fully liberated," a spokesman said. Paratroopers from Russia's Ivanovo, Moscow and Pskov airborne divisions have been sent to Tskhinvali, and international news agencies reported Russian air strikes on the Georgian town of Gori, near South Ossetia, the Black Sea port of Poti, and on two military bases.

On 09 August 2008 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that 1,500 people have been killed in South Ossetia since the start of Georgia's attack on the breakaway republic. Foreign Minister Lavrov also accused Georgia of a campaign of ethnic cleansing against South Ossetians. "Over the past one and a half days, more than 30,000 people have crossed the border," Chief of Government Staff Sergei Sobyanin told President Dmitry Medvedev at a meeting to discuss humanitarian aid to the province. This suggests that nearly half of the 75,000 residents of South Ossetia had left the territory.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that "Russian propaganda channels are saying that 1,500 people have died in South Ossetia -- this is total nonsense. This is being done deliberately, to prove that Georgia's armed forces killed many, which is a total lie. In fact, apart from the militants, our forces have killed no one. During the attack against us in Tskhinvali, the fire opened in response brought virtually no casualties among civilians. I say this with full responsibility."

Georgia said it had shot down a total of 10 Russian combat aircraft, while Russia says it had lost two planes. Russian Deputy Air Force Commander Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn stated at a news conference on 09 August 2008 that Russian peacekeepers had lost contact with an Su-25 Frogfoot close-support aircraft and a Tu-22 Blinder bomber, and that the fate of the pilots was unknown.

On August 9, 2008, US President George Bush said "The attacks are occurring in regions of Georgia far from the zone of conflict in South Ossetia. They mark a dangerous escalation in the crisis. The violence is endangering regional peace. ... Georgia is a sovereign nation and its territorial integrity must be respected. We have urged an immediate halt to the violence and a stand-down by all troops. We call for an end to the Russian bombings, and a return by the parties to the status quo of August the 6th."

August 09, 2008 a "Statement from Senator Barack Obama on Russia's escalation of violence against Georgia" stated that "Over the last two days, Russia has escalated the crisis in Georgia through it's clear and continued violation of Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. On Friday, August 8, Russian military forces invaded Georgia. I condemn Russia's aggressive actions and reiterate my call for an immediate ceasefire. Russia must stop its bombing campaign, cease flights of Russian aircraft in Georgian airspace, and withdraw its ground forces from Georgia. Both sides should allow humanitarian assistance to reach civilians in need. Russia also must end its cyber war against Georgian government websites. Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected.

"As I have said for many months, aggressive diplomatic action must be taken to reach a political resolution to this crisis, and to assure that Georgia's sovereignty is protected. Diplomats at the highest levels from the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations must become directly involved in mediating this military conflict and beginning a process to resolve the political disputes over the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A genuinely neutral mediator - not the Russian government - must begin a process of negotiations immediately.

"The situation in Georgia also requires the deployment of genuine international peacekeeping forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The current escalation of military conflict resulted in part from the lack of a neutral and effective peacekeeping force operating under an appropriate UN mandate. Russia cannot play a constructive role as peacekeeper. Instead, Russian actions in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia appear to be intended to preserve an unstable status quo."

Friday 08 August 2008

Georgia said its soldiers had seized the "greater part" of South Ossetia after heavy fighting erupted overnight in the breakaway region. The "total mobilization" of Georgia's military forces was ordered, and Russian troops have entered South Ossetia, raising fears of a full-blown military conflict. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said a Russian armored column with 150 vehicles had entered South Ossetian territory. He also said Georgian forces earlier shot down two Russian warplanes.

Washington refused to support a Russian-backed resolution in the United Nations Security Council calling for an end to the fighting because of its opposition to a clause calling on all sides to "renounce the use of force", persuaded Russians that Washington was backing Georgia's "right" to take military action.

Thursday 07 August 2008

Armed conflict began between Georgian and separatist forces in South Ossetia on the night of August 7/8, 2008. At that time, media reports indicated that explosive devices were dropped on the Georgian military bases of Vaziani and Marneuli.

On Thursday 07 August 2008 Georgian military forces fought their way into the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russian tanks entered the breakaway region as Georgian forces fought for control of the regional capital Tskhinvali. Georgian officials demanded Russia stop air attacks on Georgian cities - which Russia denies carrying out. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said Georgian forces have shot down two Russian aircraft. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev pledged to defend Russian citizens in South Ossetia, an area where many residents hold Russian passports. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin condemned the Georgian advance and vowed to retaliate. The White House, NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have called for an immediate end to the violence.

President Bush was informed immediately when the United States received news of the first two SS-21 Russian missile launchers into Georgian territory. This was at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where he immediately met with President Putin. They had a discussion.

Wednesday 06 August 2008

On 06 August 2008 the leader of South Ossetia said that Georgia was planning a full-scale invasion of the region before the start of September. South Ossetia said earlier that day that Georgian troops had opened fire on two villages in the separatist province, while Russian peacekeepers said eight Georgian warplanes had flown into the region during the morning. Georgia denied both allegations, and said the situation on the ground was calm. Georgian Interior Ministry reported the next day that South Ossetia had continued to shell five Georgian villages overnight wounding at least two Georgian police officers and damaging houses and military infrastructure.



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