Wednesday, August 13, 2008

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2008 South Ossetia war · Etcetera · Russia

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2008 South Ossetia war
Part of Georgian-Ossetian conflict
and Georgian-Abkhazian conflict

Location of Georgia (including the de facto independent provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia) and the Russian part of North Caucasus
Date August 7, 2008 – Ongoing
Location Georgia
Result Ongoing
pending of solving
Flag of South Ossetia secessionist Republic of South Ossetia
Flag of Russia Russian Federation
Flag of Abkhazia secessionist Republic of Abkhazia
Flag of Georgia (country) Georgia
Flag of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity (political)
Flag of Russia Dmitry Medvedev (political)
Flag of Russia Anatoly Khrulyov (WIA)
Flag of Russia Vladimir Shamanov
Flag of Russia Marat Kulakhmetov
Flag of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh (political)
Flag of Georgia (country) Mikheil Saakashvili (political)
Flag of Georgia (country) Davit Kezerashvili
Flag of Georgia (country) Zaza Gogava
Flag of South Ossetia Hundreds of former peacekeeping troops, possibly 3,000 at the beginning of hostilities,[1] unknown total (possibly upwards of 15,000)
Flag of Russia Thousands of former peacekeeping troops, thousands of other troops entering Georgia[2] (U.S. estimate 8,000-10,000 reinforcements in South Ossetia,[3] unknown number in Abkhazia) and in air and sea support
Flag of Russia Reportedly at least hundreds (possibly thousands)[4] of volunteers,[5] many of them from North Ossetia-Alania
Flag of Abkhazia Unknown (possibly 25,000-45,000).
Flag of Georgia (country) Hundreds of former peacekeeping troops,[6][7] unknown number of other troops (37,000 at beginning of hostilities,[8] of which 2,000 were in Iraq)
Flag of Georgia (country) "Many" volunteers from Georgia.[9] Reportedly small number of ethnic Georgian volunteers from Azerbaijan[10]
Casualties and losses

Confirmed by Russia:
Flag of South Ossetia Unknown

Flag of Russia 74 Russian troops killed, 171 wounded and 19 missing in action[11]
4 aircraft lost[citation needed]Flag of Russia Unknown number of losses mong the volunteers
Flag of Abkhazia Unknown

Confirmed by Georgia:

About 200 soldiers killed[12] Unknown number of losses mong the volunteers
Unknown civilian casualties (Russia claims over 2,000 civilians were killed in South Ossetia[13])
At least 100,000 civilians displaced, including 56,000 refugees from the Georgian city of Gori, according to the United Nations refugee agency.[14] According to Russia, 30,000 civilians have fled into Russia from South Ossetia (according to the HRW, some 24,000 of which around half may have returned as armed volunteers).[4][15][16]

The 2008 South Ossetia war is a war that began on August 7, 2008, and involves Georgia, the unrecognised republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the Russian Federation.




South Ossetia and Abkhazia are territories within Georgia that each individually declared independence from Georgia and have each been acting in de facto independent capacities since the early 1990s. Neither state has been diplomatically recognised by any member of the United Nations.

Beginning late on 1 August 2008, intense fighting began between Georgian troops and paramilitary soldiers of South Ossetia. On August 3, South Ossetians started to evacuate into Russia and on August 4, Russia moved its 58th Army next to the border and day later russian ambassador Yuri Popov warned that Russia will intervene if conflict erupts. [17][18] On August 7, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili offered a ceasefire, but fighting intensified. In a televised address, Mikhail Saakashvili has vowed to restore Tbilisi's control over what he called the "criminal regime" in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and reinforce order. [19] During the night and early morning Georgia launched a military offensive to surround and capture the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali.[20] Georgia claimed that South Ossetian separatists had shelled Georgian villages in violation of a ceasefire. South Ossetia denies provoking the conflict.[21][13] Russia threatened to respond to defend South Ossetians against "a genocide by Georgian forces".[22][13]

On August 8, 2008, Russia sent troops across the Georgian border to South Ossetia to stop Georgia’s massive offensive against its breakaway territory in which up to 2,000 civilians (at least 1000[23] ) and about 20 Russian peacekeepers were killed. In five days of fighting the Russian forces recaptured the regional capital Tskhinvali, pushed back Georgian troops, and largely destroyed Georgia’s military infrastructure in airstrikes deep inside its territory.[24] Georgia retreated from its offensive in South Ossetia, then claimed to be defending itself against "Russian aggression."[25] Russia responded to the charge in the United Nations, saying Georgia had started the war by conducting a military operation against South Ossetia.[13]

On the night of August 11, Russian paratroopers deployed in Abkhazia carried out raids deep inside Georgian territory to destroy military bases from where Georgia could send reinforcements to its troops sealed off in Abkhazia. The Russian military said they were not taking part in the Abkhaz assault on the Georgian forces. The separatist forces launched a military offensive on August 12 to oust Georgian troops out of a demilitarized zone on the border with Georgia.[24] On the August 13, Georgian official said that Georgian forces have completely left the Abkhazia.[26]

Russian forces moved from South Ossetia into Georgia proper, destroyed military bases near Abkhazia and launched airstrikes in other parts of Georgia. Also according Georgians there has been Russian military activity in port of Poti and town of Gori. Gori were also under airstrikes and shelling. On August 12 one shelling, which hitted town of Gori, killed dutch TV-channel RTL's cameraman and wounded its journalist.[27] Since Gori is along Georgia's main highway, its occupation by Russian forces cutted Georgia's lines of communication and logistics in two.

Most international observers have called for a peaceful solution to the conflict.[28] The European Union and the United States expressed a will to send a joint delegation to try to negotiate a cease-fire.[29] Russia ruled out peace talks with Georgia until the latter withdrew from South Ossetia and signed a legally binding pact renouncing the use of force against South Ossetia and Abkhazia.[30]

On August 12, 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that he had ordered an end to military operations in Georgia.[31] Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze said that Russian jets were still targeting civilians.[32] “The status quo in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is no longer possible,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.[24]

Later on the same day (August 12), Russian president Dmitry Medvedev approved a six-point peace plan brokered by President-in-Office of the European Union, Nicolas Sarkozy, in Moscow.[33]


Detailed map of the Caucasus region (1994), including locations of economically important energy and mineral resources: South Ossetia has reserves of lead and zinc, Abkhazia has coal, and Georgia has oil, gold, copper, manganese, and coal.
Detailed map of the Caucasus region (1994), including locations of economically important energy and mineral resources: South Ossetia has reserves of lead and zinc, Abkhazia has coal, and Georgia has oil, gold, copper, manganese, and coal.
v d e

South Ossetian interests

The Ossetians are a distinct Iranian ethnic group whose origin lies along the Don River. They came to the Caucasus after they were driven out of their homeland by Mongol invasions in the 13th century. Some of them settled in the territory now known as North Ossetia (currently part of Russia), and South Ossetia (currently part of Georgia).[34]

South Ossetia currently has a Georgian ethnic minority of around one fifth (14,000) of the total population (70,000).[35] The region, which is one and a half times the area of Luxembourg[36] (roughly 6% of the total territory of Georgia) broke away from Georgia in the 1991–1992 war (in which more than 2,000 people are believed to have died[37]). The BBC suggests that the South Ossetians wanted their 'Ossetian' ethnic group identity retained and did not want to remain citizens of Georgia.[34] A force with 500 troops each from Russia, North Ossetia-Alania (part of Russia), South Ossetia and Georgia monitored a 1992 truce. The full independence of South Ossetia was supported by 99% of South Ossetia's civil population according to the South Ossetian independence referendum with 95.2% of the population registered in areas under rebel administration participating in the referendum.[38]

Georgian interests

Georgia accuses Russia of the annexation of its internationally recognized territory and installing a puppet government led by Eduard Kokoity and several officials who previously served in Russian FSB and Army.[39][40][41][42] Sporadic clashes between separatist and Georgian forces have killed dozens of people in the previous few years. Restoring South Ossetia and Abkhazia (a region with a similar separatist movement) to Georgian control has been a goal of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili since the Rose Revolution.[43] Saakashvili proposed a new peace accord, under which South Ossetia would be given "a large degree of autonomy" within a federal state, but separatist leaders are instead demanding full independence.[44]

Russian interests

Reuters describes the South Ossetian separatist government as "dependent on Russia", which "supplies two thirds of their annual budget," and reports that the Russian state-controlled gas company Gazprom has made "investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars" in South Ossetia,[44] although no references or evidence is provided in the anonymous article.

Furthermore, the majority of the residents of South Ossetia are Russian citizens holding Russian passports. According to the BBC, "more than half of South Ossetia's 70,000 citizens are said to have taken up Moscow's offer of a Russian passport."[45][34] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev asserts that 90% of South Ossetia residents possess them. Russia, thus, describes its intervention as a peacekeeping operation to protect its citizens.[36]

Peace plan: Roadmap to end of military hostilities

Demands to end conflict

Saakashvili ordered a unilateral ceasefire on August 7, 2008 and called for talks "in any format"; reaffirmed the long-standing offer of full autonomy for South Ossetia; proposed that Russia should guarantee that solution; offered a general amnesty; and pleaded for international intercession to stop the hostilities.[20] On August 10, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin ruled out peace talks with Georgia until it pulled back its forces beyond the borders of South Ossetia and signed a legally binding pact renouncing the use of force against South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway territory of Georgia.[30]


On August 11, Russian President Medvedev hinted at an end to the conflict saying, "A significant part of the operation to force the Georgian authorities to make peace in South Ossetia has been concluded," and "Tskhinvali is under the control of a reinforced Russian peacekeeping contingent."[46] Russian Prime Minister Putin added Moscow would take its mission in the region to "...a logical conclusion."[47] Later the same day, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili signed an EU-backed ceasefire, but the document was rejected by Moscow.[48] According to a Reuters witness, Georgian troops did not cease fire, as six helicopters attacked Tskhinvali on 11 August.[49] An Associated Press reporter has seen 135 Russian military vehicles, including tanks, driving toward the Kodori Gorge, held by Georgian forces.[50] Russian jets are bombing civilian targets in Georgia despite Moscow's announcement that the war has ended, the acting Georgian ambassador to Britain has told Sky News.[51]

On August 12, 2008 at 09:00 UTC Russian president and Russian Army Supreme Commander-in-Chief Dmitry Medvedev stated that "peace enforcing operation in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone" is over.[52] Later, Russian General Staff Deputy Head Anatoly Nogovitsyn said armed actions will be stopped, but reconnaissance operations will be continued.[53] On August 13, a reporter for the UK Guardian claimed that "the idea there is a ceasefire is ridiculous", saying he could see villages near Gori burning, amidst claims that Chechen, Cossack and Ossetian irregulars were advancing through Georgian villages.[54] However, journalists in Gori, said they had seen no Russian tanks, despite the Georgian President claiming there were.[55]

EU-brokered six-point peace plan

Later on the same day (August 12), Russian president Dmitry Medvedev met the President-in-Office of the European Union, Nicolas Sarkozy, and approved a six-point peace plan.[33] Principles as stated by Medvedev:[56][57]

  1. "a commitment not to use force"
  2. "complete cessation of military actions"
  3. "free access for humanitarian assistance"
  4. "the return of Georgian armed forces to places of their permanent location"
  5. "the Russian peacekeeping forces take additional security measures before creation of international mechanisms"
  6. "the start of international discussions on the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and ways of providing for their stable security."

Humanitarian impact

South Ossetia

Ethnic map of the Caucasus from 1995: Ossetians live in North and South Ossetia, as well as in central Georgia.
Ethnic map of the Caucasus from 1995: Ossetians live in North and South Ossetia, as well as in central Georgia.

On August 8, the International Red Cross urged the combatant sides to make a humanitarian corridor to evacuate the wounded and civilians from Tskhinvali.[58][59] Tskhinvali's main city hospital is reported to be non-functional, and ambulances cannot reach the wounded, while Georgia continued to bomb the hospital. Twenty-two wounded remained in the building, which has only two storeys left.[60] International Red Cross spokeswoman Anna Nelson said it had received reports that hospitals in Tskhinvali were "overflowing" with casualties.[61] According to local officials, more than 150 people remain trapped under the rubble of the city hospital.[62] Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has alleged that Georgia is responsible for a "complete genocide."[22]

Human Rights Watch visited a camp for the displaced in the village of Alagir and interviewed more than a dozen people, including those from Tskhinvali and neighboring villages. Those from the city reported spending more than three days in the basements of their houses, unable to come out because of the incessant shelling. Residents of Satikhar village said that after the village came under heavy artillery fire on the night of August 7, all women, children and elderly (more than 100 people) started fleeing their homes. Most of them spent the next two days hiding in the woods and then trying to make their way toward the Russian border. They were later assisted by the Russian military in the village of Ger and transported to North Ossetia.[63]

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said that thousands of refugees are leaving South Ossetia, mostly for North Ossetia.[64] About 140 buses carrying thousands of refugees have already arrived the North Ossetia on Friday evening, according to Reuters. More refugees are said to be expected to arrive on Saturday.[65]

Eduard Kokoity alleged that the death toll has risen to 1,400.[66] According to Reuters this figure could not be confirmed.[67] Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on August 9 upon his return from Beijing to Vladikavkaz claimed that there had been, verbatim, "tens of people killed, hundreds wounded" and 34,000 refugees had crossed the Russian border.[68] According to the United Nations refugee agency, between 10,000 and 20,000 people have been displaced within Georgia.[16] Tskhinvali is reported to be lying in ruins, and more than ten border villages have reportedly also been burnt to the ground as of August 9.[69][70]

The fighting has interrupted electricity and telephone service in Tskhinvali, and some inhabitants are reportedly sheltering in basements[71] with no access to water or medicines.[72] Several journalists on August 9 were reported hiding in the basements, as they appealed to world society for a peace corridor to let them out of Tskhinvali.[73][74]

Vesti radio reported that Georgian forces burned down a church in Tanara in South Ossetia where people were hiding, to the ground, with all the people inside. The Deputy Director of an information agency as an eye witness reported that fragments of cluster bombs were found in Tskinvali. He also reported that a Georgian task force entered the city and burned a family alive in their house, and that a column of fleeing refugees was attacked by Georgians.[75] A South Ossetian reservist reported there were episodes when civilians were hiding in basements and Georgian soldiers would come in and gun them down.[75]

At a meeting with South Ossetia refugees at a makeshift hospital camp in Alagir on August 9, eyewitnesses told the Russian Prime Minister that Georgian troops had set fire to a house with several young women inside. "They were rounded up like cattle, shut into the house, and set on fire. In another place, we saw a tank run over an old woman who was running away with two children. We saw how they slashed up an 18-month child," a refugee said.[76] Russian sources cited the representative of South Ossetia administration Irina Gagloeva asserting that Georgia opened an irrigation canal to flood the basements of Tskhinvali in order to prevent people from hiding in the basements of the buildings during bombings.[77]

According to a report in the Russian Novye Izvestiya, the UK Guardian, and Sky News, Ossetian irregulars were looting and burning Georgian villages in South Ossetia and near Gori on August 13.[78][79][80]


On August 8, The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations sent a mobile hospital to North Ossetia. The Russian President also ordered the government to take urgent measures to provide humanitarian aid to those leaving the conflict zone.[69]

On August 9, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised to spend 10 bln rubles (approx. $420 million USD) to reconstruct the infrastructure and facilities in South Ossetia. The sum may increase after a thorough estimation of losses is provided.[70][70]

On August 11 the Russian Interfax News Agency said that Russia sent 120 tons of food to South Ossetia[70] and 17 tons of medicine to prevent humanitarian catastrophe.[75] Russia said it plans to send a humanitarian aid convoy with 200 tons of food, 16 tons of medical supplies, six electricity generators and water filters, from Russia's North Ossetian city of Vladikavkaz to Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, the Emergency Situation Minister said on August 10.[81] The Russian government additionally allocated $200 million in urgent aid for South Ossetia, to tackle the growing humanitarian catastrophe, according to Russia's envoy to NATO.[82]


1993 map showing the defense industries of Georgia at the time: there is an aircraft assembly plant in Tbilisi and component plants in other cities.
1993 map showing the defense industries of Georgia at the time: there is an aircraft assembly plant in Tbilisi and component plants in other cities.

Georgia claimed Russia had bombed airfields and civil and economic infrastructure, including the Black Sea port of Poti. Between eight and eleven Russian jets reportedly hit container tanks and a shipbuilding plant at the port.[83][84] The BBC reported that "In one air strike the pilot missed the intended military base, instead hitting two apartment blocks" in Gori, and the reporters "saw injured civilians being pulled from the buildings."[85] Regarding this incident SkyNews reported that "a military installation had been hit in Gori and surrounding residential apartments had been badly damaged."[86] Journalists referred to the situation in Gori as "chaotic".[85] Georgia has alleged that Russia is committing ethnic cleansing against ethnic Georgians.[87]

Reuters reported an attack on the civilian Tbilisi International Airport, though Russia claims this is misinformation.[88][89] Georgian State Minister for Reintegration, Temur Iakobashvili also denied this, stating, "There was no attack on the airport in Tbilisi. It was a factory that produces combat airplanes."[90]

Reactions to the conflict

International reactions

Financial market reaction

The effect of the war on the Russian financial markets was first noticed on the stock market benchmark index RTS which fell 6% by 8 August 2008 at 12:45 GMT in its lowest level (1,732.26) since May 2007, including blue chips such as Lukoil Holdings shares, and Russian analysts expect the fall to continue for some time but then to rise upwards again, recovering losses.[91] The Russian ruble also fell by 1% relative to a basket of currencies.[92]

The Georgian financial markets also suffered negative consequences as Fitch Ratings lowered Georgia's debt ratings from BB- to B+, commenting that there are increased risks to Georgian sovereign creditworthiness, while Standard and Poor's also lowered Georgian credit ratings.[93]

Map of Baku-Supsa and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipelines through Georgia
Map of Baku-Supsa and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipelines through Georgia

While Georgia has no significant oil or gas reserves on its own, it is an important transit route that supplies the West, and journalists expressed fear that the war may damage the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, 30% of which is owned by BP.[94] The BTC pipeline was shut down before the conflict and the war created further problems for the operating company.[95] Georgia claims Russia is targeting the pipeline.[96] On 8 August 2008, Russian air forces devastated the port of Poti, which is a key port for the transportation of energy sources, close to the Baku-Supsa pipeline and the Supsa oil terminal.[97] The price of oil was not negatively affected by these events, on August 8 light sweet crude for September delivery settled down $4.82 to $115.20 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.[98]

Kremlin allegations of media bias

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin accused foreign media of pro-Georgian bias in their coverage of the ongoing conflict between Georgia and Russia over breakaway South Ossetia. "We want television screens in the West to be showing not only Russian tanks, and texts saying Russia is at war in South Ossetia and with Georgia, but also to be showing the suffering of the Ossetian people, the murdered elderly people and children, the destroyed towns of South Ossetia, and Tskhinvali. This would be an objective way of presenting the material," Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said. Current Western media coverage of the events in the separatist republic is "a politically motivated version, to put it mildly," he said.[99]

On August 11, 2008, the Russia Today TV channel accused CNN of presenting video footage made by Russia Today in South Ossetia as pictures of bombed Gori.[100]

Cyberattacks and censorship

South Ossetian officials stated that two Ossetian news media sites were attacked. Dmitry Medoyev, the South Ossetian secessionist envoy in Moscow, claimed that Georgia was trying to cover up reports of deaths.[101]

The National Bank of Georgia website was defaced and replaced with a gallery of 20th century dictators, with Saakashvili added. Georgian news portals were under Internet denial-of-service attacks and reportedly the site of the Georgian Ministry of Defence was attacked as well. The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs site was defaced and replaced with a collage of Saakashvili and Adolf Hitler photos.[102] According to the New York Times, Georgian websites crashed frequently on 8 August.[103]

The attacks are similar in nature to the 2007 cyberattacks on Estonia and were carried out with the same techniques.[104] Estonian authorities have pledged to provide Georgia assistance in cyber-warfare. Estonia has sent to Georgia two specialists in information security from the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Estonia, and Georgia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website is currently hosted on Estonian server.[105] The Office of the President of Poland has provided the website for dissemination of information and helped to get access to the Internet for Georgia's government after breakdowns of local servers caused by cyberattacks.[106]

Georgia had stopped broadcasting Russian television channels across the country.[107] Web sites hosted on domains with addresses ending in .ru “were briefly blocked” from Georgia.[108] Some pro-Russian sites in other zones were also reported to be blocked.[109] Both actions were taken due to Georgia's belief that Russia was conducting an information war.

RIA Novosti news agency's website was disabled for several hours on August 10 by a series of computer cracker attacks. "The DNS-servers and the site itself have been coming under severe attack," said Maxim Kuznetsov, head of the RIA Novosti IT department.[110] On August 11, Russia Today TV stated: "In the course of the last 24 hours RT’s website ( has endured numerous DDoS attacks, which have made it unavailable for some time. Channel’s security specialists say the initial attack was carried out from an IP-address registered in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.[111]


T-72 tanks and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles in a German museum. Both types are being used by Russia during the 2008 South Ossetia War. Georgia also has T-72s.
T-72 tanks and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles in a German museum. Both types are being used by Russia during the 2008 South Ossetia War.[45][112] Georgia also has T-72s.[113]
See also: Military of Georgia and Military of Russia

Military equipment

Georgian, Russian and South Ossetian forces are equipped with predominantly Soviet-made weapons, in particular, Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft,[114] T-55 and T-72 tanks, and AK-74 rifles; however, Georgia has recently also been acquiring some western-made weaponry, including the UH-1 Iroquois helicopters and M4 Carbine rifles from the United States, 152mm SpGH DANA self-propelled guns and RM-70 Multiple rocket launchers from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Turkish Otokar Cobra armoured vehicles, and German Heckler & Koch G36 and Israeli IMI Tavor TAR-21 rifles.

Flag of Georgia (country) Georgia

Georgian order of battle

Georgian troops training to expel the anti-Russian Chechen rebels from Georgian territory in 2002 during the Second Chechen War.
Georgian troops training to expel the anti-Russian Chechen rebels from Georgian territory in 2002 during the Second Chechen War.

In the combat for Tskhinvali, Georgia reportedly committed several infantry battalions supported by T-72 tanks and artillery.[115] Much greater numbers are deployed elsewhere around the Georgian-South Ossetian borders.[citation needed]All 2,000 Georgian troops in Iraq have redeployed to Georgia so that they can support requirements there during the current security situation. The troops and their equipment were transported by the United States Air Force using C-17 Globemaster aircraft.[116] Georgia has 82 T-72 tanks.[113]

Russian sources claim that among the Georgian soldiers killed during the assault on Tskhinvali, Russian forces found the corpses of black soldiers.[117] They allege that these individuals were mercenaries or foreign instructors. They previously reported that United States military instructors were stationed at a large Georgian military installation in Gori.[118] U.S source The Washington Post noted that the U.S. has about 130 military personnel in Georgia training Georgian troops for deployment to Iraq and for the defense of Georgia.[119] On August 12, President Saakashvili dismissed these rumors of foreign fighters, saying "Russian TV is telling me that we had Ukrainians in our tanks. I want to tell you that there was not a single Ukrainian or American in our tanks, or in our armed forces".[120] Prior to the war, Israel, which is considering oil projects in the region,[121] had sold approximately US$400 million in training and weaponry to Georgian forces. Russia has threatened to cut its ties with Israel, while Israel claimed that the training was "defensive".[122][123]

Flag of Russia Russia

Russian order of battle

Members of the Russian Army during a mission in Bosnia in 1996 after the Bosnian War.
Members of the Russian Army during a mission in Bosnia in 1996 after the Bosnian War.

South Ossetian Sector

Abkhazian Sector

Air support


  • OTR-21 Tochka/SS-21 short-range ballistic missiles[129]
  • Russian news services, notably RTR Planeta,[130] have reported wide-scoped assembly of Ossetian Narodnoe Opolcheniye being joined by volunteers from the Vladikavkaz region and other parts of Russia. The groups being formed at "various locations" are reported to range from "tens" to "hundreds". The members of these groups as shown on video reports are identified by white armbands, but appear to be otherwise clothed and equipped predominantly in Russian Army issue camouflage clothing and firearms. One such group in the Northern Ossetia has been formed on the Staff of North Ossetia okrug Cossack Voisko (Russian: штаб североосетинского округа казачьего войска).[131]



Demonstration against the Russian intervention outside the Russian embassy in Tbilisi on August 8 2008.
Demonstration against the Russian intervention outside the Russian embassy in Tbilisi on August 8 2008.
Demonstration in Tbilisi for a free and undivided Georgia on August 12 2008.
Demonstration in Tbilisi for a free and undivided Georgia on August 12 2008.
  • Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili claimed the Russians conducted a "well-planned invasion"[132]
  • "A sniper war is ongoing against residents of the villages in the South Ossetian conflict zone and as I speak now intensive fire is ongoing from artillery, from tanks, from self-propelled artillery systems – which have been brought in the conflict zone illegally – and from other types of weaponry, including mortars and grenade launchers", Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in a live televised address made at 19:10 7 August local time.[133]
  • "This is about annihilation of a democracy on their borders," Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili told the BBC. "We on our own cannot fight with Russia. We want immediate cease-fire, immediate cessation of hostilities, separation of Russia and Georgia and international mediation."[134]
  • Georgia's Security Council secretary, Alexander Lomaia, said Saakashvili's proposal means that the Georgian troops will withdraw from Tskhinvali, the provincial capital of South Ossetia, and stop responding to Russian shelling.[135]
  • Russia has "started a full-scale military invasion" of Georgia, the country's UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania said in New York.[136]
  • "If this is not war, then I wonder what is," Georgia's ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Victor Dolidze, told a crisis meeting of the OSCE's permanent council in Vienna.[136]
  • Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili stated, "What Russia is doing in Georgia is open, unhidden aggression and a challenge to the whole world. If the whole world does not stop Russia today, then Russian tanks will be able to reach any other European capital." He argued Russia was attacking Georgia because "[Georgia] want[s] to be free and we want to be a multi-ethnic democracy."[37]
  • Saakashvili accused Russia of a "well-planned invasion" and mobilised Georgia’s military reserves.[132]
  • In an interview with CNN, Saakashvili said that Georgia and Russia were practically at war. "We have Russian tanks moving in," he said. "We have continuous Russian bombardment since yesterday ... specifically targeting the civilian population. Russia is fighting a war with us in our own territory."[137] He told the BBC: "Our troops are attacked by thousands of troops coming in from Russia."[138]


  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a BBC interview: "Peace is required and that is what we are going to achieve but we would not go beyond this."[139]
  • Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, "The actions of the Georgian powers in South Ossetia are, of course, a crime — first of all against their own people," and alleged Georgia was committing "complete genocide."[22] Putin opined that the territorial integrity of Georgia has suffered a fatal blow. He later stated "the Georgian side was preparing aggression... Nobody was listening. And this is the result. We have finally come to it. However, Russia will of course carry out its peacekeeping mission to its logical end."[140]
  • Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he was ordering the military prosecutor to document crimes against civilians (by Georgia) in South Ossetia. He said "The actions of the Georgian side led to deaths - among them are Russian peacekeepers. The situation reached the point that Georgian peacekeepers have been shooting at Russian peacekeepers. Now women, children and old people are dying in South Ossetia - most of them are citizens of the Russian Federation. According to the constitution, I, as the President of the Russian Federation, must protect lives and the dignity of Russian citizens wherever they are. Those responsible for the deaths of our citizens will be punished.[141] He said it aims to force Georgia to accept peace and restore the status quo, and it is acting within its peacekeeping mission in South Ossetia, and in line with the mandate issued by the international community.[45][142]
  • After the GMT 4:00 8 August UN Security Council meeting, Boris Malakhov, spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said he hoped it was still possible to prevent "mass bloodshed", adding, "It now became clear why the Georgian side was refraining under various pretexts from signing a legally binding document on non-use of force"[143]
  • Russian envoy Yuri Popov said Georgia's military operation showed it could not be trusted and NATO should reconsider its plans to grant membership to Georgia. Popov said, "Georgia's step is absolutely incomprehensible and shows the Georgian leadership has zero credit of trust." He called Georgia's behavior treacherous.[144]
  • In a letter to all NATO members, Ambassador of Russia to NATO Dmitry Rogozin stated Georgia had "got a permit to start a military operation" after the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest and warned against continued support of Georgia and its president.[145]
  • In North Ossetia's Vladikavkaz there were several demonstrations rallied by local Ossetians, with protesters shouting "Russia, save us!" and demanding the withdrawal of Georgian forces from South Ossetia.[146]
  • Chairman of Russia's State Duma Security Committee, Vladimir Vasiliyev, stated, "Georgia could have used the years of Saakashvili's presidency in different ways - to build up the economy, to develop the infrastructure, to solve social issues both in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the whole state. Instead, the Georgian leadership with president Saakashvili undertook consistent steps to increase its military budget from US$30 million to $1 billion - Georgia was preparing for a military action."[147]
  • On 10 August 2008 Russian human rights commissioner (ombudsman) Vladimir Lukin called for creating International Tribunal on South Ossetia. "That man who order night attack on Tskhinvali is the main responsible person," he said.[148]
  • Vice Chairman of Russian parliament Vladimir Zhirinovsky in his speech on Echo Moskvy radio suggested bombing Tbilisi and bringing Saakashvili to trial, overthrowing his "fascist regime", as well as breaking all diplomatic and economic links with Georgia.[149]
  • [other reactions from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and deputy Foreign Minister incorporated into initial paragraphs]
  • Russia also laid much of the responsibility for ending the fighting on the United States, which has trained Georgian troops.[150] Moscow ignored the Bush administration’s statement about “significant long-term impact on the U.S.-Russia relations”. Washington has not condemned Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia.[151] Israel,[123][122][152] France, Ukraine, and other countries have also trained Georgian forces in the past.[123]
Map of North and South Ossetia.
Map of North and South Ossetia.
  • The Communist Party of the Russian Federation "completely support actions of the (Russian) head of the state and the government against aggressor Mikheil Saakashvili" according to party leader Gennady Zyuganov. Zyuganov also criticised the U.S. and the European nations which have called for a cease-fire, because Zyuganov says they only "wish to protect the bloody dictator Saakashvili". Finally, the Russian government should recognise the independence of the Republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia according to Zyuganov.[153]
  • Mikhail Gorbachev, former head of state of the Soviet Union, in an op-ed in the U.S. newspaper The Washington Post blamed Georgia for starting the conflict: "the roots of this tragedy lie in the decision of Georgia's separatist leaders in 1991 to abolish South Ossetian autonomy... What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas. Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against 'small, defenseless Georgia' is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity."[154]

Flag of South Ossetia South Ossetia

  • On 8 August, South Ossetia called on "the governments and peoples of the world" to recognise its independence: "For South Ossetia, there is only one path of life – the acceptance of its independence by the international community. We call on all self-respecting people of the planet to not be indifferent to the fate of the Ossetian nation."[155]

Flag of Abkhazia Abkhazia

  • Abkhaz Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Shamba called on the international community to prohibit Georgia from having its own armed forces. "Over the last hundred years Georgia has been an independent state for 21 years: from 1918 to 1921 and from 1990 till now. And during that time launched 7 wars", he said.[156]


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