Sunday, November 9, 2008

UK monitors say Georgia fired the first shot

There's even more evidence today that Georgia started the conflict with Russia this past August.

The Times of London is reporting that two retired British military officers who were serving as international monitors in the disputed region of South Ossetia will give testimony to a formal inquiry that Georgian forces began bombarding the regional capital city Tskhinvali before Russian troops arrived. Georgia has repeatedly claimed that their actions in Tskhinvali were only in response to an attack by Russian troops.

Georgia has spent the past few months trying to portray itself as the victim of Russian aggression in the South Ossetia affair. Members of the European Union and the United States talked tough and suspended a number of diplomatic agreements with Moscow in response, but in the past few weeks, Europe's attitude towards Russia has started to soften as evidence continues to come undermining Georgia's version of the events of August 7/8.

The British observers also could not confirm Georgian claims that villages on the Georgian side of the South Ossetia border were shelled by Ossetian artillery. At most the British found there were some instances of small arms fire across the border. Of course it's important to note that gunfights across the Ossetia/Georgia border are not uncommon, especially in the summer months when temperatures grow warmer and tempers shorter. Sporadic fights between Ossetian militias and Georgian troops had been going on for several days before the attack on Tskhinvali.

Georgia's barrage of Tskhinvali damaged large swaths of the city of 40,000, killing at least 200 people. Citizens in Tskhinvali said that they weren't expecting the attack, despite high tensions between Georgia and South Ossetia, because Georgia had declared a cease-fire earlier in the evening. Russia has said that it sent troops into South Ossetia to protect the citizens of South Ossetia, many of who also hold Russian passports.

The EU is expected to announce on Monday the launch of a formal inquiry into the South Ossetia conflict.
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