Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread: Georgia Claims On Russia War Called Into Question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    America
    Posts
    30,709

    Georgia Claims On Russia War Called Into Question

    Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/07/wo...th&oref=slogin

    (Gold9472: Noooooooo... you don't say.)

    11/7/2008

    TBILISI, Georgia — Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.

    Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.

    The accounts are neither fully conclusive nor broad enough to settle the many lingering disputes over blame in a war that hardened relations between the Kremlin and the West. But they raise questions about the accuracy and honesty of Georgia’s insistence that its shelling of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, was a precise operation. Georgia has variously defended the shelling as necessary to stop heavy Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages, bring order to the region or counter a Russian invasion.

    President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia has characterized the attack as a precise and defensive act. But according to observations of the monitors, documented Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, Georgian artillery rounds and rockets were falling throughout the city at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between explosions, and within the first hour of the bombardment at least 48 rounds landed in a civilian area. The monitors have also said they were unable to verify that ethnic Georgian villages were under heavy bombardment that evening, calling to question one of Mr. Saakashvili’s main justifications for the attack.

    Senior Georgian officials contest these accounts, and have urged Western governments to discount them. “That information, I don’t know what it is and how it is confirmed,” said Giga Bokeria, Georgia’s deputy foreign minister. “There is such an amount of evidence of continuous attacks on Georgian-controlled villages and so much evidence of Russian military buildup, it doesn’t change in any case the general picture of events.”

    He added: “Who was counting those explosions? It sounds a bit peculiar.”

    The Kremlin has embraced the monitors’ observations, which, according to a written statement from Grigory Karasin, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, reflect “the actual course of events prior to Georgia’s aggression.” He added that the accounts “refute” allegations by Tbilisi of bombardments that he called mythical.

    The monitors were members of an international team working under the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or O.S.C.E. A multilateral organization with 56 member states, the group has monitored the conflict since a previous cease-fire agreement in the 1990s.

    The observations by the monitors, including a Finnish major, a Belarussian airborne captain and a Polish civilian, have been the subject of two confidential briefings to diplomats in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, one in August and the other in October. Summaries were shared with The New York Times by people in attendance at both.

    Details were then confirmed by three Western diplomats and a Russian, and were not disputed by the O.S.C.E.’s mission in Tbilisi, which was provided with a written summary of the observations.

    Mr. Saakashvili, who has compared Russia’s incursion into Georgia to the Nazi annexations in Europe in 1938 and the Soviet suppression of Prague in 1968, faces domestic unease with his leadership and skepticism about his judgment from Western governments.

    The brief war was a disaster for Georgia. The attack backfired. Georgia’s army was humiliated as Russian forces overwhelmed its brigades, seized and looted their bases, captured their equipment and roamed the country’s roads at will. Villages that Georgia vowed to save were ransacked and cleared of their populations by irregular Ossetian, Chechen and Cossack forces, and several were burned to the ground.

    Massing of Weapons
    According to the monitors, an O.S.C.E. patrol at 3 p.m. on Aug. 7 saw large numbers of Georgian artillery and grad rocket launchers massing on roads north of Gori, just south of the enclave.

    At 6:10 p.m., the monitors were told by Russian peacekeepers of suspected Georgian artillery fire on Khetagurovo, an Ossetian village; this report was not independently confirmed, and Georgia declared a unilateral cease-fire shortly thereafter, about 7 p.m.

    During a news broadcast that began at 11 p.m., Georgia announced that Georgian villages were being shelled, and declared an operation “to restore constitutional order” in South Ossetia. The bombardment of Tskhinvali started soon after the broadcast.

    According to the monitors, however, no shelling of Georgian villages could be heard in the hours before the Georgian bombardment. At least two of the four villages that Georgia has since said were under fire were near the observers’ office in Tskhinvali, and the monitors there likely would have heard artillery fire nearby.

    Moreover, the observers made a record of the rounds exploding after Georgia’s bombardment began at 11:35 p.m. At 11:45 p.m., rounds were exploding at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between impacts, they noted.

    At 12:15 a.m. on Aug. 8, Gen. Maj. Marat M. Kulakhmetov, commander of Russian peacekeepers in the enclave, reported to the monitors that his unit had casualties, indicating that Russian soldiers had come under fire.

    By 12:35 a.m. the observers had recorded at least 100 heavy rounds exploding across Tskhinvali, including 48 close to the observers’ office, which is in a civilian area and was damaged.

    Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that by morning on Aug. 8 two Russian soldiers had been killed and five wounded. Two senior Western military officers stationed in Georgia, speaking on condition of anonymity because they work with Georgia’s military, said that whatever Russia’s behavior in or intentions for the enclave, once Georgia’s artillery or rockets struck Russian positions, conflict with Russia was all but inevitable. This clear risk, they said, made Georgia’s attack dangerous and unwise.

    Senior Georgia officials, a group with scant military experience and personal loyalties to Mr. Saakashvili, have said that much of the damage to Tskhinvali was caused in combat between its soldiers and separatists, or by Russian airstrikes and bombardments in its counterattack the next day. As for its broader shelling of the city, Georgia has told Western diplomats that Ossetians hid weapons in civilian buildings, making them legitimate targets.

    “The Georgians have been quite clear that they were shelling targets — the mayor’s office, police headquarters — that had been used for military purposes,” said Matthew J. Bryza, a deputy assistant secretary of state and one of Mr. Saakashvili’s vocal supporters in Washington.

    Those claims have not been independently verified, and Georgia’s account was disputed by Ryan Grist, a former British Army captain who was the senior O.S.C.E. representative in Georgia when the war broke out. Mr. Grist said that he was in constant contact that night with all sides, with the office in Tskhinvali and with Wing Commander Stephen Young, the retired British military officer who leads the monitoring team.

    “It was clear to me that the attack was completely indiscriminate and disproportionate to any, if indeed there had been any, provocation,” Mr. Grist said. “The attack was clearly, in my mind, an indiscriminate attack on the town, as a town.”

    Mr. Grist has served as a military officer or diplomat in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Kosovo and Yugoslavia. In August, after the Georgian foreign minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, who has no military experience, assured diplomats in Tbilisi that the attack was measured and discriminate, Mr. Grist gave a briefing to diplomats from the European Union that drew from the monitors’ observations and included his assessments. He then soon resigned under unclear circumstances.

    A second briefing was led by Commander Young in October for military attachés visiting Georgia. At the meeting, according to a person in attendance, Commander Young stood by the monitors’ assessment that Georgian villages had not been extensively shelled on the evening or night of Aug. 7. “If there had been heavy shelling in areas that Georgia claimed were shelled, then our people would have heard it, and they didn’t,” Commander Young said, according to the person who attended. “They heard only occasional small-arms fire.”

    The O.S.C.E turned down a request by The Times to interview Commander Young and the monitors, saying they worked in sensitive jobs and would not be publicly engaged in this disagreement.

    Grievances and Exaggeration
    Disentangling the Russian and Georgian accounts has been complicated. The violence along the enclave’s boundaries that had occurred in recent summers was more widespread this year, and in the days before Aug. 7 there had been shelling of Georgian villages. Tensions had been soaring.

    Each side has fresh lists of grievances about the other, which they insist are decisive. But both sides also have a record of misstatement and exaggeration, which includes circulating casualty estimates that have not withstood independent examination. With the international standing of both Russia and Georgia damaged, the public relations battle has been intensive.

    Russian military units have been implicated in destruction of civilian property and accused by Georgia of participating with Ossetian militias in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Russia and South Ossetia have accused Georgia of attacking Ossetian civilians.

    But a critical and as yet unanswered question has been what changed for Georgia between 7 p.m. on Aug 7, when Mr. Saakashvili declared a cease-fire, and 11:30 p.m., when he says he ordered the attack. The Russian and Ossetian governments have said the cease-fire was a ruse used to position rockets and artillery for the assault.

    That view is widely held by Ossetians. Civilians repeatedly reported resting at home after the cease-fire broadcast by Mr. Saakashvili. Emeliya B. Dzhoyeva, 68, was home with her husband, Felix, 70, when the bombardment began. He lost his left arm below the elbow and suffered burns to his right arm and torso. “Saakashvili told us that nothing would happen,” she said. “So we all just went to bed.”

    Neither Georgia nor its Western allies have as yet provided conclusive evidence that Russia was invading the country or that the situation for Georgians in the Ossetian zone was so dire that a large-scale military attack was necessary, as Mr. Saakashvili insists.

    Georgia has released telephone intercepts indicating that a Russian armored column apparently entered the enclave from Russia early on the Aug. 7, which would be a violation of the peacekeeping rules. Georgia said the column marked the beginning of an invasion. But the intercepts did not show the column’s size, composition or mission, and there has not been evidence that it was engaged with Georgian forces until many hours after the Georgian bombardment; Russia insists it was simply a routine logistics train or troop rotation.

    Unclear Accounts of Shelling
    Interviews by The Times have found a mixed picture on the question of whether Georgian villages were shelled after Mr. Saakashvili declared the cease-fire. Residents of the village of Zemo Nigozi, one of the villages that Georgia has said was under heavy fire, said they were shelled from 6 p.m. on, supporting Georgian statements.

    In two other villages, interviews did not support Georgian claims. In Avnevi, several residents said the shelling stopped before the cease-fire and did not resume until roughly the same time as the Georgian bombardment. In Tamarasheni, some residents said they were lightly shelled on the evening of Aug. 7, but felt safe enough not to retreat to their basements. Others said they were not shelled until Aug 9.

    With a paucity of reliable and unbiased information available, the O.S.C.E. observations put the United States in a potentially difficult position. The United States, Mr. Saakashvili’s principal source of international support, has for years accepted the organization’s conclusions and praised its professionalism. Mr. Bryza refrained from passing judgment on the conflicting accounts.

    “I wasn’t there,” he said, referring to the battle. “We didn’t have people there. But the O.S.C.E. really has been our benchmark on many things over the years.”

    The O.S.C.E. itself, while refusing to discuss its internal findings, stood by the accuracy of its work but urged caution in interpreting it too broadly. “We are confident that all O.S.C.E. observations are expert, accurate and unbiased,” Martha Freeman, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message. “However, monitoring activities in certain areas at certain times cannot be taken in isolation to provide a comprehensive account.”
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    America
    Posts
    30,709
    Georgia fired first shot, say UK monitors

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle5114401.ece

    Jon Swain
    11/9/2008

    Two former British military officers are expected to give crucial evidence against Georgia when an international inquiry is convened to establish who started the country’s bloody five-day war with Russia in August.

    Ryan Grist, a former British Army captain, and Stephen Young, a former RAF wing commander, are said to have concluded that, before the Russian bombardment began, Georgian rockets and artillery were hitting civilian areas in the breakaway region of South Ossetia every 15 or 20 seconds.

    Their accounts seem likely to undermine the American-backed claims of President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia that his little country was the innocent victim of Russian aggression and acted solely in self-defence.

    During the war both Grist and Young were senior figures in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The organisation had deployed teams of unarmed monitors to try to reduce tension over South Ossetia, which had split from Georgia in a separatist struggle in the early 1990s with Russia’s support.

    On the night war broke out, Grist was the senior OSCE official in Georgia. He was in charge of unarmed monitors who became trapped by the fighting. Based on their observations, Grist briefed European Union diplomats in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, with his assessment of the conflict.

    Grist, who resigned from the OSCE shortly afterwards, has told The New York Times it was Georgia that launched the first military strikes against Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital.

    “It was clear to me that the [Georgian] attack was completely indiscriminate and disproportionate to any, if indeed there had been any, provocation,” he said. “The attack was clearly, in my mind, an indiscriminate attack on the town, as a town.”

    Last month Young gave a similar briefing to visiting military attachés, in which he reportedly supported the monitors’ assessment that there had been little or no shelling of Georgian villages on the night Saakashvili’s troops mounted an onslaught on Tskhinvali in which scores of civilians and Russian peacekeepers died.

    “If there had been heavy shelling in areas that Georgia claimed were shelled, then our people would have heard it, and they didn’t,” Young reportedly said. “They heard only occasional small-arms fire.”

    Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister who helped broker the ceasefire that ended the war and has been a fierce critic of the Russian invasion of Georgia, is tomorrow due to announce a commission of inquiry into the conflict at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

    The inquiry will be chaired by a Swiss expert as a mark of independence and will try to establish who was to blame for the conflict. European and OSCE sources say it is likely to seek evidence from the two former British officers.

    The inquiry comes as the EU softens its hardline position towards Russia amid mounting European scepticism about Saakashvili’s judgment.

    Europe is preparing to resume negotiations with Moscow this month on a new partnership and cooperation agreement, which it froze when Russia invaded Georgia, routed its army and recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway region.

    Although Grist and Young know only part of the picture, their evidence appears to support Russia’s claim that the Georgian attack was well underway by the time their troops and armour crossed the border in a huge counter-strike.

    Georgia attacked South Ossetia on the night of August 7-8. In the afternoon an OSCE patrol had seen Georgian artillery and Grad rocket launchers massing just outside the enclave. At 6pm the monitors were told of suspected Georgian shelling of a village.

    Georgia declared a unilateral ceasefire. But at 11pm it announced that Georgian villages were being shelled and began a military operation to “restore constitutional order” in South Ossetia.

    Soon afterwards the Georgian bombardment of Tskhinvali began. By 12.35am the OSCE monitors had recorded more than 100 rockets or shells exploding in Tskhinvali.

    Russia sent in troops and armour, saying they were there to protect its peacekeepers and the civilian population. The invasion attracted worldwide condemnation and led to a deterioration in relations between Moscow and the West.

    Many western leaders depicted Russia as an expansionist giant determined to crush its tiny neighbour. They rallied to Georgia’s defence amid calls for it to be rapidly admitted to Nato, Saakashvili’s most fervent wish.

    The president argued that Russia had attacked Georgia because “we want to be free” and that his country was fighting a defensive war.

    Critical to his argument was his claim that he had ordered the Georgian army to attack South Ossetia in self-defence after mobile telephone intercepts from the Russian border revealed that Russian army vehicles were entering Georgian territory through the Roki tunnel.

    “We wanted to stop the Russian troops before they could reach Georgian villages,” Saakashvili said. “When our tanks moved toward Tskhinvali, the Russians bombed the city. They were the ones – not us – who reduced it to rubble.”

    Russia counters that the war began at 11.30pm, when Saakashvili ordered an attack, well before any Russian combat troops and armour crossed the border through the tunnel.

    HOW FIGHTING BROKE OUT
    August 7, 3pm: OSCE monitors see build-up of Georgian artillery on roads to South Ossetia.

    6.10pm: Russian peacekeepers inform OSCE of suspected Georgian artillery fire on Khetagurovo, a South Ossetian village.

    7pm: Georgia declares a unilateral ceasefire.

    11pm: Georgia announces that its villages are being shelled and launches attack in South Ossetia.

    11.30pm: Georgian forces bombard Tskhinvali.

    11.45pm: OSCE monitors report shells falling on Tskhinvali every 15-20 seconds.

    August 8, 12.15am: Commander of Russian peacekeepers reports that his unit has taken casualties. Russia later announces that it has invaded Georgia to protect civilians and Russian peacekeepers.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


Similar Threads

  1. The Russia/Georgia War
    By Gold9472 in forum The New News
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-10-2008, 09:18 PM
  2. Cheney Slams Russia Over War Against Georgia
    By Gold9472 in forum The New News
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 09-04-2008, 08:56 AM
  3. Bush Tells Russia To Get Out Of Georgia
    By Gold9472 in forum The New News
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 08-17-2008, 10:49 AM
  4. War Between Russia And Georgia Orchestrated From USA
    By Gold9472 in forum The New News
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 08-11-2008, 03:29 PM
  5. Georgia Blames Russia For Gas Cut-Off
    By Gold9472 in forum The New News
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 01-22-2006, 01:08 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •