Georgia attacks South Ossetia

Russia has moved tanks and troops into South Ossetia to protect its nationals and peacekeepers hours after Georgia launched a full-scale military offensive against its breakaway territory.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev condemned Georgia’s attack as an act of "aggression" and vowed to defend Russian citizens in South Ossetia. An overwhelming majority of the region’s 70,000-strong population holds Russian passports.

"I must protect the life and dignity of Russian citizens wherever they are," said Mr. Medvedev in televised remarks at an emergency meeting of Russia’s Security Council on Friday. "We will not allow their deaths to go unpunished. Those responsible will receive a deserved punishment."

The Russian Defence Ministry said it was sending reinforcements to Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia. Ten peacekeepers were killed and another 30 wounded when Georgian artillery and tanks fired point blank at peacekeepers’ headquarters and observation posts, said a spokesman for the Defence Ministry. He said Georgian troops were finishing off wounded peacekeepers.

Georgian troops backed by tanks, warplanes and heavy artillery attacked South Ossetia on Thursday night three hours after Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili announced a "unilateral ceasefire" following several days of heavy artillery exchanges with the South Ossetian militia.

By Friday morning, Georgian forces overran several South Ossetian villages and entered the region’s capital, Tskhinvali. The city of 35,000 residents is reported to have been flattened by Georgian artillery fire that included salvos of deadly Grad multiple rocket launchers.

Thousands of civilians are feared to have died in the fire, said a government spokesman in South Ossetia.

General Mamuka Kurashvili, Georgian military commander in the region, said on local television the Georgian forces had moved to "establish constitutional order in the region."

Mr. Saakashvili has long promised to retake South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two separatist provinces that broke away from Georgia after bloody armed conflicts in the early 1990s. In his televised address on Friday, Mr. Saakashvili announced a full military mobilisation with reservists being called into action.

Direct armed confrontation between Russian and Georgian forces appears imminent.

According to Channel One of the Russian television, two Russian battalions of the 58th Army rushed into South Ossetia on Friday, were deployed near Tskhinvali and were firing at Georgian positions.

Thousands of Russian volunteers are reported to be heading to South Ossetia to help fight Georgian forces.

The conflict is likely to spread as Abkhazia threatened to open a second front against Georgia under a mutual defence pact with South Ossetia.

The U.S., EU and NATO have called for an end to hostilities in South Ossetia, but the U.S. and Britain blocked a Security Council resolution tabled by Russia that would have called on Georgia and its separatist region in South Ossetia to immediately put down their arms and "renounce the use of force."

[Source: By Vladimir Radyuhin, The Indu, Moscow, 09Aug08]

Tienda de Libros Radio Nizkor On-Line Donations

The Question of South Ossetia
small logoThis document has been published on 09Aug08 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.