Georgia Leader Tries to Incite West by Claiming Russian Forces Are Encircling the Capital of Georgia
Trying to incite the U.S. and other Western nations, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili told CNN that Russian forces are moving towards the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, and trying to encircle the city. “The Russians are encroaching upon the capital. They are making a circle,” Saakashvili said, adding: “We will protect our capital until the last drop of our blood.” See this claim.
However, even Georgian officials denied this. Georgia’s deputy interior minister said Russian troops were not advancing towards Tbilisi. “I’d like to calm everybody down. The Russian military is not advancing towards the capital,” Ekaterine Zguladze told a news conference. Zguladze did not specify what the Russian troops were doing. See this report.
Saakashvili Claimed Russian Tanks Were “Rampaging” Through Georgia Town of Gori – On the Spot Journalists See No Tanks
Earlier, Saakashvili, flanked by the leaders of Lithuania, Poland, Estonia and Latvia in a media briefing early Wednesday, said Russian tanks were attacking and “rampaging” through the Georgian town of Gori despite the cease-fire. However journalists in Gori, the birthplace of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, said they had seen no Russian tanks. Residents there told the journalists they had earlier seen “some,” but not in large numbers.A Russian military official said its forces were at an abandoned Georgian artillery base near Gori, but not inside the town itself. See this claim and denial.
Shaky Ceasefire Appears To Be Holding
by Charles Bremner, Moscow / The Times Online / August 13, 2008
The ceasefire in the Caucasus conflict appeared to be holding today as Russia reported the pullback of Georgian troops from South Ossetia and denied Georgian claims that it was deploying more troops on Georgian territory outside the disputed province.
In particular, Moscow denied Georgian claims that 50 of its tanks were in Gori, the Georgian city near the Ossential border. The city had been abandoned by its authorities who had fled, said General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the Russian General Staff. “We cannot find anyone. How they were evacuated and what happened there is a mystery to us,” he said.
Russia continued to vent its anger on what it called Georgian aggression and atrocities as European foreign ministers gave the Union’s blessing to a ceasefire accord that was brokered in Moscow yesterday by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President and current EU chairman.Under the pact, fighting was stopped while forces are to return to their positions before Georgia attacked last Thursday. “Georgian forces have begun their pullback toward Tbilisi but no active withdrawal has yet been observed,” said General Nogovitsyn.
President Mikheil Saakashvili, the US-supported President of Georgia insisted, however, that “Russian occupying forces are continuing movements across Georgia despite the ceasefire.”
Moscow maintained the tough line that followed its overwhelming assault against Georgia’s offensive. Sergei Lavrov, the Foreign Minister, said that Russian troops would only leave when Georgian troops were back in their barracks. He also ruled out the continuing participation of Georgian troops in the international peace-keeping force which has been stationed in the disputed territory for over a decade. The Georgians were “traitors” who had turned round and fired on their Russian colleagues, he said.
Russia said that it had suffered 74 dead, 171 wounded and 19 missing from its armed forces in the brief conflict. It continued to accuse Georgia of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” against the Russian majority in South Ossetia. Russia says that some 2,000 civilians were killed and 100,000 displaced. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, urged Mr Lavrov in a telephone call to desist from using the two expressions in relation to Georgia’s actions, the Russian minister said. President Medvedev also used the terms on Tuesday with Mr Sarkozy.
While the war of words raged on between a humiliated Georgia and a re-emboldened Kremlin, the West acknowledged that the five-day war had opened a new chapter in its relations with the former superpower that was once again flexing its muscles. The United States cancelled joint military exercises and David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said that Europe should reassess its ties with Russia after its “aggressive” behaviour in Georgia.
General Nogovitsyn said that Ukraine, Georgia’s main weapons supplier, along with Nato countries, had pushed it to attack the Russian forces. “If Saakashvili had not been armed up to the teeth, he would never have made such a decision,” he said.
As the dust settled on the Caucasus conflict, it was becoming clear that Georgia’s assaults on Russian forces in its separatist province had backfired. Mr Saakashvili’s conduct came under fire from Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet elder statesman who was Georgia’s President for eight years until 2003. “Georgia should not have intervened in [South Ossetian capital] Tskhinvali in such an ill-prepared manner. This was a grave mistake,” Mr Shevardnadze told Bild, the German newspaper. “The situation is extremely tense and very complicated. What happens next is uncertain. I hope that the talks of President Saakashvili with his Western partners will lead to an end to the conflict,” he said.
Mr Saakashvili insisted that the peace deal does not compromise his country’s territorial integrity. During the night, Moscow agreed to soften the wording of the Sarkozy pact. Instead of promising negotiations on the “future status” of breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the six-point deal was changed to discussion on how to ensure “security and stability” there instead. On the Russian side, Mr Lavrov said that this changed nothing about the essence of the accords. Whatever the wording, the reality of the Russian-dominated provinces had now changed, he said. [Go here for the article.]