Georgian military forces were able to resist attacks by the Russian army and managed to push and keep Russian forces out of the South Ossetian town of Tskhinvali until very late into the night.
The fierce battles inflicted heavy damage on the Russian forces. During the course of the day, they lost about 40 tanks, as well as a number of smaller artillery pieces, APCs and soldiers.
Early in the morning, overwhelming Russian reinforcements were poured into the theatre, including dozens of tanks, APCs, and katyusha rocket trucks, supported by hundreds of troops.
Russian air forces have been attacking Georgian positions throughout the night in and around Tskhinvali, in a "burned earth" tactic reminiscent of the Russian devastation of Grozny, Chechnya, in the 1990s. As a result, Tskhinvali was largely reduced to rubble, and Georgian forces were forced to redeploy to the outskirts of the city, and unilaterally ceased returning fire. Nevertheless, Russian attacks continued.
At present, the Georgian positions are not firing. A ceasefire, however limited, is needed to allow Georgian, Russian and civilians to remove their dead, get their wounded to hospital, and allow remaining civilians and reporters in the city to leave unhurt. The decision by Georgia to unilaterally withdraw from Tskhinvali and cease returning fire is designed to allow such a cease-fire to take hold.
Far from taking up this opportunity to stop the violence and bloodshed, Russian forces have continued attacking towns and villages way beyond the conflict area, turning practically the entire country into a war stage. Among other outrages, Russian warships are turning back wheat shipments, Russian planes have bombed the Tbilisi aircraft factory, damaging the runway.
This morning, at 5:45am two aircraft dropped 6 bombs on the village of Urta, near Zugdidi. Zugdidi is the closest big Georgian town to the line of separation with separatist Abkhazia. The bombs aimed to destroy transmission antennae and a police training center (unused for years). The bombing has not resulted in any destruction.
The attacks on Urta confirm Russian designs on Upper Abkhazia (also know as the Kodori Gorge). According to government representatives in Upper Abkhazia, Russian planes have bombed the villages of Ajhara and Gentsvisi, thankfully without casualties. There are signs that the attacks will continue. The Russians is forcing Abkhazia into the conflict.
At this moment, talks with Russian military circles and government representatives are being held. Our aim is to create a humanitarian corridor to let civilians leave the conflict zone and transfer to a safe zone, either in Georgia or in Vladikavkaz, north Ossetia, according to their own preference. Georgia is a civil country and we believe that we should behave in a civil way during the time of war.
For the small nations, the risk of conflagration is really high. Russians tactics are reminiscent of the Chechen wars: they have shown that they do not care overmuch about their own losses. Russian actions in Chechnya have resulted in the near-destruction of the Chechen nation. The same danger now looms over South Ossetians, and over the Abkhaz people if they become involved in the conflict. I am not indifferent towards what happens to the Abkhaz people. I only hope that they will not follow the Russian policy.