Georgia started war with Russia, says EU
Georgia was blamed for starting the 2008 war with Russia, a new EU report says. But it also says Russia then invaded South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
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The study digs deep into history and finds fault with both sides, which means that nobody is likely to be satisfied. While it provides solid answers to some of the conflict’s most troubling questions – such as, who started the fighting? – both sides are already spinning its findings to support their separate narratives
The report, prepared under the direction of Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini and now available online (click here for a PDF) makes clear that Georgia opened hostilities by mounting a “sustained artillery attack” on the capital of the Russian-protected breakaway statelet of South Ossetia on the night of Aug. 7, followed by a full-scale invasion of the region.
The investigators were unable to find any solid evidence to support Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili’s oft-repeated claim that he sent his forces into South Ossetia to interdict a Russian invasion that was already in progress.
Russian armored troops smashed into the territory the next day, the report says, and soon broadened out their counter-assault to include Georgia’s other separatist region, Abkhazia.
Some Georgian experts say they can’t accept the finding that Georgia opened hostilities.
“We have evidence that the Russians were already attacking, but the [Tagliavini] commission ignored it,” says Alexander Rondeli, president of the Foundation for Strategic and International Studies in Tbilisi. “This study will have no effect on Georgia, because interpretations can be different. We know what happened, and we don’t need someone else to tell us.”
The five-day war killed at least 250 people and drove about 120,000 from their homes, many permanently. It ended with an EU-brokered cease-fire that required both sides to withdraw to prewar positions. Russian troops, who had driven deep inside Georgian territory, have yet to fully comply with the terms of that deal.