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Letter by Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, to the New York Times Editor

(abridged version published in the NYT on 13 November 2008)

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

13 November 2008

Dear Mr. Editor,

I would like to note the significance – on a number of levels – of the article “Accounts Undercut Claims by Georgia on Russia War”, which the NYT carried on November 7.

It took three months for the US media to start telling the truth about the August war in the Caucasus.

Indeed, as the article notes the war was started by the Georgians under a false pretext on the night of August 7. Civilians and Russian peacekeepers were immediately attacked (the attack on the peacekeepers providing the legal ground for us to act in self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter; the attack on civilians giving us no other option but to interfere – we could not allow another Srebrenica to unfold before our eyes).

The OSCE observers knew exactly what was happening and reported that through their chain of command, but that information was withheld from the OSCE member states, which amounted to disinformation of an international organization.

M.Saakashvili did violate the ‘cease-fire’ he declared at 7 pm on August 7.

However, the American public needs to know more.

M.Saakashivili also violated four years of promises he had been giving to us, to the people of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia and – we were told – to the US Administration that he would never use force to resolve the Georgia – South Ossetia and Georgia – Abkhazia conflicts.

As the Georgian forces were starting their assault on Tskhinval, the Russian diplomacy made a last-ditch effort to prevent bloodshed. Here, in New York, our delegation to the UN called a late night session of the Security Council demanding a cease-fire. (And for several preceding weeks we had been insisting on the urgent need for a non-use of force agreement between the Georgians and South Ossetians and the Georgians and Abkhazians.)

The death and destruction caused by the Georgian aggression need to be known. In Tskhinval alone 438 sites – most of them purely civilian (including churches, mosques and synagogues) – were destroyed or severely damaged. The historic Jewish quarter of Tskhinval was ruined. The Georgian military were deliberately targeting civilians as they were hiding in the cellars of their houses or trying to flee Tskhinval (this was graphically demonstrated in a recent BBC documentary).

The grand total of it all is that the truth undermines not only the Georgian claims on the war, but the entire premise of the vicious ‘Russian aggression’ campaign which was conducted in Washington and some other capitals. Was the ‘noise level’ of that campaign designed to silence questions about the US role, which were raised on the Hill, but never pursued?

What were the 127 American advisers from the Pentagon alone doing in Georgia at the time when Tbilisi attacked South Ossetia? Why was it so easy for M.Saakashvili to brush aside the advice for ‘restraint’ which – we are told – US officials were giving him? Why disregard the blatant irresponsibility and criminality of M.Saakashvili’s actions?

One can only hope that the American public – and the new US Administration – will ponder these issues carefully.

Vitaly Churkin
Ambassador,
Permanent Representative
of the Russian Federation to the UN

 



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