[ExI] who attack who
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.
HOW FIGHTING BROKE OUT
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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