Sat, Aug 08, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Georgia, Russia mark anniversary

WAR OF THE WORDS: Media reports said that both sides were starting an ‘information war’ aimed at winning ‘the good opinion of the West’ with reports on the conflict

AFP , TBILISI

A man stands in front of his ruined house in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia, on Thursday. Georgia released a report yesterday saying it faced a “large-scale Russian invasion” when its forces launched an assault on the rebel South Ossetia region last year, sparking a brief but bitter war.

PHOTO: AFP

Georgia and Russia yesterday marked a year since the outbreak of their war amid tensions and international concern over instability in the volatile Caucasus region.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was to make an address late yesterday following a day of ceremonies, including a nationwide minute of silence, to commemorate the victims of the war.

Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region, which was at the heart of the conflict, was also to mark the day with a memorial procession, a moment of silence and a speech by rebel leader Eduard Kokoity.

The anniversary follows a week of rising tensions around South Ossetia and accusations of small-scale attacks and “provocations.”

The five-day conflict last August ended with an EU-brokered ceasefire after several hundred people had been killed.

Ahead of the anniversary, both sides renewed counter-accusations of having started the war, with Russia insisting it moved into Georgia to defend South Ossetia from a Georgian attack aimed at retaking the rebel territory.

Georgia sought to boost its claim that Russia was to blame by releasing a new report saying it faced a “large-scale Russian invasion” before it launched its assault on South Ossetia.

The report, the first to detail Georgia’s allegations about how the war started, said a column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles entered a tunnel leading to Georgia about 20 hours before Georgian forces were ordered to act.

But Russia fired back with its own allegations this week, including a claim by a top Russian general that Georgia used warplanes falsely tagged with Russian markings to target civilians.

General Anatoly Nogovitsyn also showed journalists documents he said were left by fleeing Georgian troops and “clearly proved” Tbilisi “had planned for a war against South Ossetia since 2004.”

In an article headlined “Russia and Georgia Play their Trump Cards,” the daily Kommersant said Moscow and Tbilisi were ready to meet the anniversary of their war with an information battle targeting Western diplomats.

“One year after the August conflict, Russia and Georgia start a new war — an information war. The prize is to win the good opinion of the West,” it said.

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