How the Georgian War Began

My former journalist colleagues has tried to investigate the issue – who started and provided an interesting, though contradictory picture of what was going on.

With the Caucasus still reeling from the disaster caused by the war that erupted over South Ossetia, questions are being asked as to how the conflict started on the night of August 7-8.

Everyone agrees that the Georgian army launched an attack at 11.30 pm that night. The key question is to what degree the Georgians were facing a direct threat. Government officials say that they had been confronted by unacceptable provocation in the form of attacks on Georgian villages in South Ossetia and a Russian military build-up on the other side of the mountains and had no choice but to act as they did. They say they then came up against massive Russian aggression.

“How could we have prevented the hostilities, after Russia clearly decided to start a war?” Georgian state minister for reintegration and Tbilisi’s chief negotiator over South Ossetia Temuri Yakobashvili told IWPR.

For their part, the Ossetians and Russians say the Georgian operation was a cynically planned attack to recapture South Ossetia only hours after President Mikheil Saakashvili had lulled Ossetians by announcing a ceasefire and promising them “unlimited autonomy”.

Aelita Jioyeva left Tskhinvali on August 7 a few hours before the fighting began.

“Of course, the situation was tense before that and a lot of people had decided to leave,” she said. “But no one thought that they would attack us so unexpectedly, at night, when everyone was asleep and when the Olympic Games were opening in another part of the world. It was such a horrible thing they did.”

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2 thoughts on “How the Georgian War Began

  1. How Russia Started The War With Georgia

    By DemocracyRules

    From Michael Totten and DR’s info on file

    The MSM is wrong again. Last weekend the Associated Press reported , “The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia.”

    What Really Happened

    For at least a year prior to the war, the Russian military began to muster large amounts of military equipment and personnel on the Russian side of the border, in North Ossetia. They also engaged in many other war preparations, including building a railroad into the nearby area of Abkhazia.

    On August 1, the capital town of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, was reasonably static. Tskhinvali, population about 35,000, is Ossetian. Ossetians and ethnic Georgians lived close to each other, and a swath of Georgian villages surrounded Tskhinvali in a crescent shape.

    Previous conflicts had brought Russian and Georgian peacekeepers into the area in a 1994 agreement. One thing the agreement specified was that neither side could have or use any gun larger than 80mm.

    In addition to the peacekeepers, the Ossetians had their own military in the area. The Ossetians and the Russians are close allies. The Ossetian military held positions in Tskhinvali, and the Georgian military held positions in the rural areas between Tskhinvali and the Gerogian villages. However, in the summers there were often some military exchanges between these two groups. This year the Ossetian military began a series of provocative escalations of artillery fire in which Georgian positions and Georgian villages were hit. The Georgians initiated cease-fires, but the Ossetians violated them.

    On August 3, Kokoity, the head of South Ossetia, told Ossetian civilians to evacuate from the area. On that same day, “volunteer” Russian militiamen from the Russian side began to move through the Roki Tunnel and disperse into the countryside. Then they just sat and waited.

    The South Ossetian military started the war on August 6. They fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with 155mm artillery. These are much larger and more destructive than the maximum-size 80mm weapons agreed upon by both sides in 1994. These guns are large enough to destroy a house with a single round.

    At the same time, the Russian military crossed into Georgia, invading via the Roki tunnel.

    These events all transpired before the Georgians sent additional troops to the area. Because of the peace agreement, no one was allowed to have guns larger than 80mm. Saakashvili interpreted these events as the formal start of a war, and he responded by sending additional troops to South Ossetia. The Georgian military then counter-attacked on stop the artillery bombardments onto Georgian areas.

    However, the Georgian military faced an onslaught of the Ossetian military, plus the nearby Russian “peacekeepers”, plus the regular Russian army flooding across the border, plus the sudden appearance of the Russian air force, plus the “volunteer” Russian militiamen.

    The Georgians quickly realized that they could not hold any part of South Ossetia, and withdrew to the South Ossetian border, and declared a cease-fire.

    The various Russian forces also crossed the South Ossetian border and invaded the Georgian heartland, heading toward Tblisi, Georgia’s capital. Russia’s politicians and military proclaimed that they would not rest until Tblisi was overthrown.

    At that point, Bush, Rice, McCain, NATO, France, and Britain spoke up very loudly. The various Russian forces then retreated to a point within 30 km of Tblisi, and began consolidating their positions.

    • Preparations for war started on both sides not later than in 2004, when president Saakashvili launched his revisionist campaign. Russia’s role was simple to use South Ossetia and Abkhazia as tools to interfere in Georgian politics. By internalizing South Ossetian and Abkhaz problems, Georgia made itself vulnerable to those attempts.

      South Ossetia certainly did not have plans to attack Georgia, Russia must have had them, as the hostilities mounted in the following four years after 2004.

      There is no evidence, South Ossetians used 155-mm guns prior to August 7 escalation. OSCE mission, stationed in Tskhinval did not report of any violations on the South Ossetian side. The counterattack by Georgian forces somewhat included mass scale killing devices like Grad missiles, that are designed to level large areas.

      It is true, that Kokoity ordered evacuation several days earlier, this can be attributed to the information he had about the Georgian attack. But Georgian villages also evacuated prior to the war, so it is hard to say who planned what. Despite the evacuation, most of the civilian population stayed behind, UNHCR registered around 30 thousand refugees that fled the scene of fighting after the war broke out.

      Russians definitely had plans of capturing Tbilisi and changing the regime, but were sensible enough to stop well before getting to Tbilisi. Well, Saakashvili also had plans of capturing Tskhinval and changing the regime there with use of force.

      President Saakashvili’s statements are highly inconsistent with this article and with his own logic too. He says, that Georgian military went out to meet Russian military onslaught to attract world’s attention to the region. If Georgians planned to fight Russia, they should have fought at least for couple of weeks, instead, as soon as Georgians realized that Russia is entering the war their military resistance lasted only for a day.

      Compare what president Saakashvili said initially and then, you will find no much similarity, only contradictions.

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