[ExI] who attack who

Frank McElligott frankmac at ripco.com
Tue Nov 11 17:34:53 UTC 2008

Just for your information, as it might have gotten lost with the election news;

The Sunday Times (UK)
November 9, 2008
Georgia fired first shot, say UK monitors
By Jon Swain

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.


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.


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