Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding GAERC’s press communique on the “EU-Russia Relations”

In a communiqué issued after their General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on November 10, 2008, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union confirmed their commitment to the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Georgia and underlined the importance of Russia’s compliance with the August 12 cease-fire agreement. This agreement unambiguously requires the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops from the occupied territories of Georgia.

The EU also stressed that the Russian Federation should comply with its obligations and engage in the Geneva talks in a constructive spirit. Should Russia fulfill its obligations in good faith, it is our strong conviction that the next round of the Geneva talks will be productive. We look forward to what we hope will be constructive discussions in Geneva on November 18, 2008.

The EU Foreign Ministers also made it clear that the dialogue with the Russian Federation in no way implies that the EU is legitimizing the existing status quo in Georgia or the actions of the Russian Federation that are contrary to European values and principles. It is noteworthy that the European Union underlined the importance of assessing the compliance of the Russian Federation with its international obligations and taking this assessment into account when deciding how to conduct the business with Russia.

It is also important that the European Union made a high priority of the issue of access for international monitors to Abkhazia, Georgia, and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia. Indeed, without transparency and international monitoring, the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will remain safe heavens for continuous human rights violations, including ethnic cleansing, as well as organized crime, terrorism, and arms and drugs trafficking. They will serve as a means to continually undermine Georgia’s sovereignty and stability.

It is essential for the European Union, as it has in the past, to act swiftly and consistently with regard to the issues outlined in the November 10 GAERC Communique. It was the EU’s, as well as other important international actors’ response to Russia’s August invasion that sent a clear message to Moscow, helped slow Russian aggression, and cleared the way for the EU to broker the ceasefire agreement. Equally effective were the EU’s rapid deployment of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), its provision of generous financial and humanitarian assistance to Georgia, and the Union’s decision to speed up Georgia’s integration with the EU. Only the EU’s strong engagement with steady and consistent actions will deter aggressive states from forcefully changing Europe’s boundaries, undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of European nations, and using ethnic cleansing as a tool for implementing foreign policy goals. Such aggressive states should not have any hope that fundamental principles can be sacrificed for the sake of short-term convenience, thus giving them license to illegally use their military or economic power.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia once again reiterates that Georgia continues to be in full compliance with the August 12 cease-fire agreement, brokered by the Presidency of the EU. The strong, principled, and consistent stance of the European Union on the need for the Russian Federation to strictly abide by the August 12 agreement is essential for the security not only of Georgia, but of the entire European neighborhood.

Friday, November 7, 2008

EU Monitors in New Standoff with Russia

In the latest face-off with Russia, the head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia yesterday demanded access to the conflict zones. “The EU monitors have not been able to enter the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We keep knocking on their doors, we are carrying out patrols near their checkpoints,” said Hans Jorg Haber, head of the EU Monitoring Mission, on Wednesday. “We want to make it clear for everyone that our mandate should cover the entire territory of Georgia.”

Late last month, the EU monitors had another pointed confrontation with Moscow, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused them of ignoring alleged Georgian violations outside the conflict zones. Haber retorted that the EU mission had been "pleasantly surprised" by the lack of serious incidents and called allegations from Georgia's region of South Ossetia province of violations "overblown."

“We don't get any details from the Russians. We just get general allegations,” Haber said of the Lavrov’s assertions. He added that the mission currently had to communicate with the Russians via the Swiss embassy in Tbilisi. "We literally don't have any telephone number on their side so far. We have been asking for it and I will ask for it again.”

Haber also said Moscow was distorting the role of Georgian special forces. "Georgian special forces are not what Moscow understands. They're lightly armed police units, not travelling in armoured vehicles, and needed to restore law and order in adjacent areas," he said.

The escalating tensions with Moscow come on the eve of an EU-Russia Summit in Nice later this month. The EU is set to decide whether to resume negotiations on a partnership pact with Russia. However, at their emergency summit on September 1 following Russia’s invasion of Georgia, EU leaders had agreed to resume negotiations only if the terms of the six point ceasefire agreement had been met.

Russia is defying the ceasefire agreement on numerous accounts. In addition to denying EU monitors access to the conflict zones, Russia has (1) introduced massive additional troops into both regions,; (2) announced plans to maintain and expand its military forces and bases in both of those regions: (3) seized areas that the Government of Georgia controlled prior to the invasion including the district of Akhalgori, a predominantly ethnic Georgian town, just 60 km from Tbilisi, that has never been a part of the conflict zone, and (4) forcibly evicted the Georgian po from the newly seized areas (Kodori gorge). And it has failed to rescind its recognition of the independence of the two Georgian territories.

Meanwhile, Russia also is maintaining more than double the pre-conflict legal limit of troops in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Haber, the head of the EU monitors, has said that since the EU does not recognize the independence of the two breakaway provinces, "there is no legal foundation" for the stationing of an announced 3,800 Russian regular troops to replace the 500 peacekeepers.

Moscow’s intransigence has galvanized several EU leaders to call on their counterparts to refuse a return to business as usual with Russia. “We reiterate that under the continued occupation of Georgian territories it would be too early to resume talks on a new partnership agreement with Russia,” the presidents of Poland and Lithuanian said in a joint declaration last weekend. “We underline that negotiations on the EU and Russia agreement should be renewed only when Russia withdraws its troops from Georgia to the positions held prior to August 7th.”

Updates on Georgia

Georgia newsletter 6-13 November, 2008

Elections in Adjara & Tbilisi

Elections for the local parliament in the Adjara Autonomous Republic—as well as Parliamentary by-elections in Tbilisi—were held Monday in a “most peaceful and quiet environment, without significant violations,” according to observers from the Council of Europe.

“In comparison with previous years, the election system was really improved,” said Gunter Kruger, the head of the CoE delegation and a member of the Berlin house of representatives. The Council’s positive judgment was echoed by almost all other local and international observers, numbering over 1,500 in total. There were 21 international and 9 local observer missions in Adjara, and slightly fewer in Tbilisi for the by-elections. They noted numerous advances made in several aspects of the electoral process, including fair access to the airwaves and to administrative resources for all accredited parties.

The extensive efforts to level the media playing field appeared to work. An independent consulting firm, Primetime, that monitored the quality and quantity of media exposure for political candidates said they generally received even-handed coverage. (The firm’s reports can be found at

The Central Election Commission also made extensive efforts to ensure that voters could easily register for the election and correct errors in the voter lists; imposed strict rules on the use of administrative resources; and undertook extensive public campaigns to encourage voter turnout, including by the physically impaired.

The Council of Europe delegation did note some electoral irregularities, but said that these did not have a material effect on the final tally. “Generally, the elections were conducted positively, but the delegation concludes that further revision of electoral procedures is needed,” said Kruger during his Tuesday press conference.

The United National Movement party of President Saakashvili won an easy victory in Adjara, despite not having mounted a major campaign. Meanwhile, the UNM did not contest the Parliamentary by-elections in Tbilisi, in a gesture aimed at increasing pluralism in a legislative body that UNM dominates. The two, single–mandate constituencies were won by Guram Chakhvadze of the National-Democratic Party and Tamaz Kvachantiradze of the Christian-Democratic Party.

“Although Adjara is a very important region for me and the results of elections there are important for Georgia, neither I nor the central authorities participated in the election campaign,” said President Saakashvili after the vote. “I asked the National Movement not to put ads on the central TV channels and we have not spent significant funds on advertising.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Next Round of Geneva Talks

Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has been falsely accusing the Georgian side for abandoning Geneva discussions on October 15 and not planning to take part in the next round of negotiations on November 18, 2008. Such claims are absolutely groundless and represent yet another example of Soviet type propaganda aimed at misleading the international community.

Georgia believes that the moderators have done an outstanding job in organizing the first round of the Geneva discussions. The existing format of the talks creates all the preconditions for successful conduct of the second and future rounds. Georgia stands ready to continue constructive engagement in the Geneva talks, as we have done on October 15.

It is not Georgia, but the Russian Federation, and its proxy regimes of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, who are responsible for the suspension of the first round of Geneva talks. As is well known, the Russian side boycotted the plenary session, which was attended by the representatives of the UN, EU, OSCE, as the moderators, and Georgia and the United States of America, as participants. This was the format agreed among all parties. Moreover, the Russian side and the proxy regimes of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region also boycotted the meetings of the working groups, where, as agreed in advance, the participants were to take part on an informal level to discuss the issues related to the security and stability in Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia, as well as the safe and dignified return of the IDPs to their places of residence.

The Georgian side is looking forward to taking part in the next round of negotiations in Geneva on November 18, in the format agreed among all parties. We also hope that this time the Russian Federation will participate in the plenary, as a demonstration of its dedication to the peace process. The Geneva format, in our opinion, is a good way forward to solve the existing problems and discuss outstanding issues. The Georgian side, on its part, will be closely cooperating with the moderators and all the interested parties to make sure that the next meeting within the Geneva format takes place on November 18, as planned.

Tbilisi, 3 November, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Updates on Georgia

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alarming Situation in S.Ossetia

According to information of relevant Georgian agencies and institutions, Russian Federation has tremendously increased its military capabilities on the occupied territories of Georgia. During the last week Russian military units increased their military potential in Akhalgori by 5 tanks, 22 armoured vehicle and 23 military trucks. Thus, for the time being only in Akhlagori there are located Russian Federation’s 25 tanks (T-22), 33 armoured vehicle. The number of military personnel reaches more than 400. In addition to this, at the illegal check-points opened in the Akhalgori district, Russian militaries have installed “GRAD” type missile systems.

Furthermore, during the last days Russian military units are trying to enlarge area of their activities. Precisely, October 26, on the main road connecting Dusheti district to Akhalgori one additional illegal check-point has been opened. Moreover, Adjacent territories in Dusheti district were mined.

During the last 10 days in the Ckhinvali region Russian Federation increased the number of its military personnel up to 2000. Part of this military personnel were located alongside the administrative border at the illegal check-points, and part of them inside Ckhinvali.

Also, during the last days S.Ossetian and Abkhazian separatists or groups under their control pass administrative borders with the aim to conduct subversive acts. They also frequently shell Georgian police shells outside the administrative border.

The above-mentioned developments vividly demonstrate that the Russian Federation continuous to violate August 12, 2008 Ceasefire Agreement. Analysis of the data and information the Georgian side possess makes think that the threat of further large-scale military provocation from Russian side is real. Thus, international involvement to stop this provocation has decisive importance.

Grenades Fired

On 24 October 2008, at night, fire was opened from the territory controlled by Russian occupation troops in the direction of the village of Muzhava, Tsalenjikha district. Three grenades were fired towards the peaceful population. On 25 October, in the afternoon, officials of the Tsalenjikha local administration, police and representatives of the EU Monitoring Mission left for the village of Muzhava to explore the situation on the spot. Upon the approach of their cars to the village, two time bombs exploded near the scene of the incident and mortar fire was again opened from the territory controlled by Russian occupation troops. As a result, Gia Mebonia, head of the local administration of the Tsalenjikha district was killed, one policeman – wounded. EU Monitors did not sustain injuries.

On 24 October 2008, at night, over 200 militias under the control of the Russian occupation troops moved closer to the village of Khurvaleti, Gori District in the vicinity of the Tskhinvali region with the aim of carrying out an attack on the peaceful population. The situation was defused only due to the efforts of the EU Monitors.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia would like to focus attention on the fact that an increasing number of terrorist acts against Georgian officials, policemen and peaceful civilians take place against the background of deployment of an additional number of Russian military personnel and equipment on the occupied territories of Georgia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia calls on the international community to take decisive measures to prevent a new large-scale provocation designed by the Russian side against Georgia.

Tbilisi, 25 October 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Georgia Update Weekly Newsletter: 16-23 October 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia

on the press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation regarding withdrawal of Russian Armed Forces from Georgia
Tbilisi, 10 October 2008

On 9 October 2008 the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a press release on the withdrawal of Russia’s so-called peacekeeping forces from Georgia in which the Russian side claims to have fulfilled ahead of time the commitment under the EU Presidency-mediated agreement.

With respect to the foregoing, the Georgian Foreign Ministry is authorized to state the following:

After Russia’s military aggression against Georgia on 7 August 2008 and occupation of large part of its territory, Russian troops deployed on the territory of Georgia can only be defined as occupation forces and any reference to their ‘peacekeeping status’ is deprived of any legal and political basis.

Despite its claims, the Russian side still continues to grossly violate the provisions of the six-point ceasefire agreement, which mandates restoration of the status quo existing prior to the breakout of hostilities.

The Russian occupation forces still illegally keep their positions near the village of Perevi, Sachkhere district, and in Akhalgori. It needs to be noted that the Georgian-populated district of Akhalgori has never been an arena of conflict; as a result of Russian military intervention, however, inhabitants of the district had to leave their homes and they still have no possibility to return.

The Russian occupation troops acting in league with Sokhumi separatists are still exercising illegal control over the territory of Upper Abkhazia, from which the local Georgian population was forcefully expelled.

In flagrant violation of Point 5 of the six-point ceasefire agreement, the Russian side still retains illegally and even increases its military presence on the territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region where, according to the official statement of the Russian Defence Ministry itself, up to 8 thousand servicemen are still present. Moreover, the Russian side continues to bar monitors of the European Union and other international organizations from accessing these regions that prevents verification of the number and composition of Russian military personnel. Furthermore, an agreement was reached with the separatist regimes on the setting up of Russian military bases in both regions, which also directly contradicts the ceasefire agreement.

Withdrawal of the Russian troops from the part of the occupied territory of Georgia was paralleled by a series of terrorist acts. Moreover, the Georgian villages, which Russian invaders and their separatist accomplices have left behind themselves are burned, ruined and destroyed. The Georgian side has been repeatedly informing the international community on the crimes committed by separatists. Now everyone will be able to assess exactly the scale of violence by armed separatists abetted and backed by Moscow. Gross and mass violation of human rights, violence, robbery and burglary can be viewed as descriptive marks of the Russian occupation regime.

Taking into consideration the high criminality level and generally the extremely severe situation on the yet occupied territories of Georgia – Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, Russia must immediately stop arms supply and training of local illegal armed formations in both regions that is one of the essential preconditions for preventing provocations and incidents. It is to be hoped that the activity of international monitors throughout the territory of Georgia will put an end to speedy militarization of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region.

Whatever may be the Russian side’s approach to this, making any reference to Russia’s compliance with that part of the six-point ceasefire agreement, which deals with the restoration of the military status quo ante will become possible only after Russian occupation troops have left the entire territory of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. The Russian side would be advised to realize that eventually not a single invader in military uniform will remain on the territory of Georgia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, along with the international community considers as its priority task to ensure the safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons and refugees to the places of their permanent residence and consequently, the elimination of consequences of the mass ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Russian occupation troops in Georgia. This is one of the key issues that will be placed at the centre of discussions during international negotiations regarding security and stability in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region scheduled to take place in Geneva.

Breaches by Russia of the Ceasefire Agreement: CHECKPOINTS

10 October 2008

The Russian Army has illegally established 25 checkpoints deep within sovereign Georgian territory, contravening the six-point ceasefire agreement brokered by France. As of 10 October 4 Checkpoints still remain in Georgia in the territories adjacent to the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia. Russian troops are also in upper Abkhazia (Kodori gorge).

There are an estimated 400 Russian soldiers and 30 Armored Personal Carriers stationed at these checkpoints. Additionally, there are an estimated 7,000 Russian soldiers in Abkhazia and in the Tskhinvali region.

List of checkpoints in the teritory adjacent to the South Ossetia Region

1. Perevi (Sachkhere district) paratroopers company, 7 APC, 3 Ural type car, 100 servicemen
2. 1 km north of Odzisi in the Akhalgori district: 6 APC, 100 Russian servicemen.
3. Village Mosabruni (Akhalgori district): 6 APC, 100 Russian Servicemen.
4. Village Ikoti (Akhalgori District): 6 APC, 100 Russian Servicemen.

This map gives an overview of the current checkpoint in the territories adjacent to South Ossetia

Monday, September 22, 2008

Media and telephone intercepts confirm Russia started the war

Mounting evidence shows that Russian forces were first to move into the Georgian region of South Ossetia.

This document presents evidence gleaned from
• Publicly available Russian and western media sources and
• Telephone intercepts of the Georgian intelligence services, described as credible by Western intelligence agencies and undenied by Russia.

This document first presents a summary of the evidence. A second section follows listing the stories and their web links, reproducing extracts in the original language and, where necessary, adding a translation into English.

The intercepts and the stories confirm that units of the Russian 58th Army moved into South Ossetia first, forcing the Georgian Armed Forces to react.

The Evidence

Telephone intercepts
Early in the morning of August 7, at 3:41 am and 3:52 am, Georgian intelligence intercepted two mobile telephone conversations held by a South Ossetian border guard posted at the Roki tunnel by the name of Gassiev. His first name is unknown.
Georgia provided the intercepts to US and European intelligence agencies and senior American officials have already found them to be credible. The Russian Federation has disputed their importance, but has not denied their authenticity.
The New York Times independently translated and analyzed the transcripts. The full story appears in section 2.
At 3.41 a.m., Gassiev told a supervisor at the South Ossetian border guard headquarters that a Russian colonel had asked Ossetian guards to inspect military vehicles that “crowded” the tunnel. Mr. Gassiev said, “The commander, a colonel, approached and said, ‘The men with you should check the vehicles.’ Is that O.K.?” When asked who this commander was, Gassiev continued, “I don’t know. Their superior. The one in charge there. The BMPs and other vehicles were sent here and they have crowded there. The men are also standing around. And he said that we should inspect the vehicles. I don’t know. And he went out.”
At 3:52, Gassiev spoke to the supervisor again and informed him that armored vehicles had left the tunnel, commanded by a colonel he called Kazachenko. The supervisor asked Gassiev, “Listen, has the armor arrived or what?” Gassiev replied, “The armor and people.” Asked if they had gone through the tunnel, he said, “Yes; 20 minutes ago. When I called you they had already arrived.” Supervisor: “Are they a lot, much military vehicles?” Gassiev: “Well, Tanks, armored carriers and that.”

These intercepts show that significant Russian forces, enough to “crowd” the Roki tunnel, entered South Ossetia some 20 hours before Georgian forces counterattacked.
The New York Times reports that senior American officials find the intercepts to be “credible”.
Significantly, Russia has not disputed the authenticity of the intercepts; merely their importance. The Russian explanation that these calls refer to a routine rotation of their peacekeeping troops is false. According to the peace agreement in force at that time, any rotation should have happened during daylight and all relevant parties should have been notified (i.e. the Georgian Government and OSCE) a month ahead of time. The previous rotation of Russian forces was in May 2008.
Furthermore, prior to the publication of these intercepts, the Russian side had never mentioned any rotation on August 7 in any of their communications (e.g. their timeline of events, public data or statements) and it insisted that its troops entered the region only at noon on August 8.
Western intelligence findings boost the credibility of these transcripts. Again according to the New York Times, the western services independently found that two battalions of the 135th Regiment moved through Roki either the night of August7 or the early morning of August 8.
The New York Times story appears in the next section of this document.

Why is this evidence only coming to light now, a month after the war started?
The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs monitors mobile communications in South Ossetia carried over the Magti mobile network. Magti, which is one of Georgia’s three big providers, has an excellent network across the South Ossetia region, covering the territory with 20 cell towers. The local alternative is Ostelecom, a provider backed by the Russian Megafon network. It has a much more restricted reach based on a system of 5 cell towers, mostly serving the high-density areas around Tskhinvali. Crucially, it does not reach deep into the countryside. For that reason, Magti is widely preferred in the territory, especially by people who need to roam rural areas, such as officials, militia, border guards, truck and taxi drivers etc. They widely use Magti despite instructions by the separatist government to use Ostelecom.
The Georgian Interior Ministry seeks to monitor all communications between officials in the territory. In line with legal requirements, the Ministry of Internal Affairs monitored the conversations of a significant number of officials of the paramilitary structures of the de facto authorities involved in illegal activities
Georgia’s Interior Minister received a report on the intercepts from Georgian counter-intelligence within hours of recording. He relayed the information to the President and other members of Government.
The file with the recordings was lost during the war when the surveillance team moved operations from Tbilisi, the capital, to the central city of Gori. Georgian intelligence officers later sifted through 6,000 files to retrieve copies.
This analysis is not complete. Hundreds of recordings remain to be evaluated. It is, therefore, possible that fresh evidence will become known in the coming days or weeks.

Media stories

The evidence gleaned from the telephone intercepts is corroborated by stories that have appeared in both Russian and Western media.

These are summarised here; the next section lists links and the Russian originals.

1. In a story from August 4, describes the relocation of units of the Russian 58th Army and of a regiment of the Pskov-based 76th Airborne Division to the Georgian border, adjacent to the northern entrance to the Roki Tunnel:

Several battalions of the 58th Army of the North-Caucasus Military District, with permanent bases in the territory of North Ossetia, have been brought to the border of South Ossetia. Soldiers and military hardware have been moved to the end of the Roki tunnel, the only route that connects the two Ossetian republics.

As was reported to LIFE.RU sources in the republic, the movement of military units started on the night of 2nd to 3rd August. Reportedly, convoys of military forces began moving out from their bases in the Kirov region of North Ossetia (in Elkhotovo village) and from Ardone. The relocation of Russian hardware to the proximity of the Roki tunnel means these troops can support the Peacekeeping Forces as quickly as possible.

2. In a story from September 11, analyses the movements of the 58th Army and concludes as follows :

“On August 7, the Russian regiment received an order to move towards Tskhinvali. It was set on alert and before nightfall reached the positions prescribed. By midnight it was possible to see the outbreak of shelling in Tskhinvali from where regiment was located.

Between the Roki Tunnel and Tskhinvali there is only one such place [to see the shelling of Tskhinvali] : the village of Djava. So, the 135th regiment entered South Ossetia before the Georgian attack on Tskhinvali.”

3. In an interview with the Russian Ministry of Defence’s publication Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), Russian armed forces Captain Sedristyi confirms his unit was ordered to Tskhinvali on August 7:

‘"We were at the exercises,” captain Sedristyi starts his story. “It is not so far from the capital of South Ossetia, Lower Zaramakh—a nature preserve in North Ossetia. That's the place where we had our camp after the exercises, but on 7 August we were ordered to move towards Tskhinvali. We were raised on an alarm – and sent on a march."’

Krasnaya Zvezda changed the date in its story from August 7 to August 8 following questions from Western media. Captain Sedristyi, it was explained, confused the dates because of an injury sustained during the fighting. According to the New York Times, Captain Sedristyi cannot be reached. The extract of the story in the next section quotes the original; the links to the doctored story and the original, kept in a Google cache, are given.

4. On August 15, the daily Permskie Novosti, reporting about the war, quotes a conversation between a soldier and his mother:

“ I have very little time, - the kid went on. – Look: we are here since 7 August. Well, the whole of our 58th army.”

5. On August 17, Komsomoslkaya Pravda quotes Sergeant Alexander Plotnikov of the 693rd regiment of the 58th Army, who was interviewed in Rostov after being wounded in the fighting:

“The gossip that the war would start soon went around in our regiment in the beginning of August. Nobody spoke about it officially. We understood everything, though, after two companies of our regiment were sent to the mountains, not far from Tskhinvali.”

6. On September 2, Vadim Rachkovsky, a journalist for Moskovskyi Komsomolets, wrote on his blog:

“As to the tank column. I see nothing particular about that. Attention! This is verified and nobody makes a secret from the fact that the battalion-tactical group of 693rd regiment of 58th army used to regularly move towards South Ossetia for military duty. And that’s from where they moved to Tskhinvali. Maybe this happened on August 7, maybe even earlier. This was not for the first time. Each time tension was rising, our tanks advanced to this direction. So, in this case Saakashvili says the truth.”

7. According to BBC Monitoring World Media Monitor, on August 7, the Abkhaz separatist leader Sergei Bagapsh told Rossiya TV that a Russian battalion had entered the conflict zone:

Abkhaz leader says Russian troops deployed in South Ossetia
The president of the self-proclaimed republic of Abkhazia, Sergey Bagapsh, has said that a Russian military battalion has entered the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia. His remarks, made at a meeting of the Abkhaz security council, were broadcast by the Russian state-owned TV channel Rossiya on 7 August. "I have spoken to the president of South Ossetia. It [the situation] has more or less stabilized now. A battalion of the North Caucasian [Military] District has entered the area," Bagapsh said.

Source: Rossiya TV, Moscow, in Russian 1600 gmt 7 Aug 08

8. As the Russian military was preparing for the invasion, the Russian media was preparing to cover it. Said Tsarnayev, a freelance journalist working for Reuters, arrived in Tskhinvali on 7 August. In an article published on the website of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Tsarnayev is quoted as saying:

‘"At the hotel we discovered that there were already 48 Russian journalists there. Together with us, there were 50 people," Tsarnayev said. "I was the only one representing a foreign news agency. The rest were from Russian media and they arrived three days before we did, as if they knew that something was going to happen. Earlier at the border crossing, we met one man who was taking his wife and children from Tskhinvali."’


The telephone intercepts, their analysis and the Western and Russian media stories all indicate that the Russian armed forces entered the territory of Georgia in South Ossetia many hours before Georgia decided to counterattack at Tskhinvali. Some had progressed at least as far as Djava before nightfall on August 7.
The Georgian Armed Forces received intelligence on August 7 that Russian troops north of the border had received orders to roll into Georgia. They received this information hours before Georgia conducted its military operation in response to the Russian invasion.
Military necessity dictated the choice of Tskhinvali as the objective for the Georgian counterattack, as any topographical map makes clear—it was the only way the Georgian army could move from its core territory to meet the advancing Russian columns. The counterattack aimed for military targets and did not significantly damage the town of Tskhinvali itself, as a study by the UN using satellite pictures makes clear. (See
Moreover, the media stories and analyst reports support the view that the Russian military designed its exercises of July 2008 to prepare Russian troops for an invasion of Georgia. A leaflet entitled Know Your Enemy, which was distributed to participating soldiers confirmed this view (see annex). The leaflet makes the target of the exercise clear, detailing the composition and main armaments of the Georgian Army.

Stories, translations and links

1. description of relocation of Russian units:

2. analysis of the movements of the 58th Army

“All roads lead to the Roki tunnel: the war started on provocative territory “
11 September 2008

The regiment, which has a permanent place of deployment in the village Prokhladni near Nalchik, was posted in Nizhny Zaramag after the exercises (2 August), writes Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star).

Nizhny Zaramag is located a few kilometers from the Roki tunnel’s northern entrance. A checkpoint and customs post are located in this village. Russia and Georgia have different views as to whom the Roki tunnel belongs to. The Roki pass includes the Roki tunnel; an essential part of the Transcaucasian road. The Roki tunnel is the only connection linking South and North Ossetia. The Mamisoni pass is, in fact, the border between Georgia and Russia. These are extremely important strategic places from a military point of view. A regiment of the 58th Army was located in close proximity to this border, in the city of Zaramag close to the Transcaucasus roadway, and was able to cross the border of South Ossetia in the shortest time.

On August 7, the Russian regiment received an order to move towards Tskhinvali. It was set on alert and before nightfall reached the positions prescribed. By midnight it was possible to see the outbreak of shelling in Tskhinvali from where regiment was located.

Between the Roki Tunnel and Tskhinvali there is only one such place [to see the shelling of Tskhinvali] : the village of Djava. So, the 135th regiment entered South Ossetia before the Georgian attack on Tskhinvali.

Russian original:
Все дороги ведут в Рокский тоннель: война началась на провокационной территории
Полк, имеющий место постоянной дислокации в поселке Прохладный под Нальчиком, после окончания учений (2 августа) был размещен в Нижнем Зарамаге, пишет "Красная звезда".
Нижний Зарамаг находится в нескольких километрах от северного портала Рокского тоннеля; в этом поселке находятся пропускной пункт и таможня.
Принадлежность Рокского тоннеля Россия и Грузия рассматривают по-разному. Рокский перевал включает в себя Рокский тоннель - важнейшую часть Транскавказской магистрали. Это единственная дорога, соединяющая Южную и Северную Осетию. Мамисоновский перевал - по сути, граница между Грузией и Российской Федерацией. Это крайне важные стратегические плацдармы с военной точки зрения. В непосредственной близости к границе в районе города Зрамаг на Транскаме был расквартирован полк 58-й армии, который в краткие сроки способен перейти границу Южной Осетии, отмечал накануне боевых действий
7 августа российский полк получил команду выдвигаться к Цхинвали, был поднят по тревоге и до исхода дня успел прибыть на предписанный рубеж выдвижения. После полуночи из расположения полка можно было наблюдать вспышки артиллерийского обстрела Цхинвали.
Между Рокским тоннелем и Цхинвали такое место только одно - Джава. Итак, 135-й мотострелковый полк вступил на территорию ЮО до начала грузинской атаки на Цхинвали, полагают СМИ.
3. Krasnaya Zvezda interview of captain Sedristyi:

“Life Goes On”By Irina Zhirnova,
Krasnaya Zvezda
3 September 2008
Doctored story at
Original story at

“- We were at the exercises, - captain Sedristyi starts his story. – It is not so far from the capital of South Ossetia. Nizhnyr Zaramag - nature reserve in North Ossetia. That’s the place where we had our camp after the exercises, but on 7 August we got orders to move towards Tskhinvali. We were raised on an alert – and sent on a march.”

Russian original:

“- Мы были на учениях, - начинает рассказ капитан Сидристый. - Это относительно недалеко от столицы Южной Осетии. Нижний Зарамах - природный заповедник Северной Осетии. Вот там после плановых учений и стояли лагерем, но 7 августа пришла команда на выдвижение к Цхинвалу. Подняли нас по тревоге - и на марш.”

4. Permskie Novosti interview of the mother of a soldier:

“Soldiers from Perm got into the epicenter of the war”By Irina Kizilova
Permskie Novosti
15 August 2008

During the morning of 10 August one of the mothers, who sent her son to Alania [in North Ossetia] less than 3 months ago received a call. “
– Mom, I am just back from Tskhinvali.
– What do you mean, from Tskhinvali?! There’s war down there! You were not supposed to be sent there!
- I have very little time. Look: we are here since 7 August. Well, the whole of our 58th army. You are probably watching TV to find out what is going on over there? Today, we battled through from Tskhinvali to Vladikavkaz for arms supplies. Now we are going to fight through back there. That’s all, I am being called. Regards to everyone from me. Kiss you…

Russian original:

Утром 10 августа в доме одной из матерей, отправившей меньше трех месяцев назад своего сына в Аланию, раздался звонок. – Мама, я только что из Цхинвали. – Как из Цхинвали?! Там же война! Вас не должны были туда отправлять!
– У меня очень мало времени, – продолжал мальчишка. – Слушай: мы там с 7 августа. Ну, вся наша 58-я армия. Ты же, наверное, смотришь по телику, что там происходит? Сегодня мы пробились из Цхинвала во Владикавказ за вооружением. Сейчас будем обратно пробиваться. Всё, зовут. Передавай всем привет. Целую…

5. Komsomoslkaya Pravda interview of Sergeant Alexander Plotnikov:

“We knew even in the beginning of August that the war would start”, Maria Zhuykova,
Komsomolskaya Pravda
17 August, 2008
“The gossip that the war would start soon went around in our regiment in the beginning of August. Nobody spoke about it officially. We understood everything, though, after two companies of our regiment were sent to the mountains, not far from Tskhinvali.”
Russian original:
“- Слухи о том, что, скоро будет война, стали ходить в полку в начале августа. Никто официально об этом не говорил. Но мы все поняли, когда две роты нашего полка переправили в горы, недалеко от Цхинвала.»

6. Blog of Vadim Rachkovsky, the journalist with Moskovskyi Komsomolets:

2 September 2008

Question: Vadim…what about this strange column of tanks or some other heavy armored vehicles that allegedly entered South Ossetia through Roki Tunnel in the evening of August 7? Georgian representative to UN is mentioning this on every session.

Answer: As to the tanks column. I see nothing particular about that. Attention! This is verified and nobody makes a secret from the fact that the battalion-tactical group of 693rd regiment of 58th army used to regularly move towards South Ossetia for military duty. And that’s where from they moved to Tskhinvali. Maybe this happened on August 7, maybe even earlier. This was not for the first time. Each time tension was rising, our tanks advanced to this direction. So, in this case Saakashvili says the truth. What else to do? Wait until these tanks would pass through Roki tunnel?

Russian original:

И что слышно насчёт этой непонятной танковой колонны или каких-то бронемашин, которые якобы прошли в Рокский туннель 7 августа вечером в сторону Южной Осетии? Грузинский представитель в ООН на каждом заседании говорит об этом?
А насчёт танковой колонны. На самом деле вообще ничего особенного в этом факте не вижу. Внимание! Доподлинно известно и этот факт особо даже не скрывается что батальонно-тактическая группа 693-го полка 58 армии регулярно выдвигалась в сторону Южной Осетии на боевое дежурство. Оттуда они и на Цхинвали пошли. Может это было 7 августа, а может и раньше. И это случилось не впервой. При любом обострении обстановки наши танки туда выдвигались. Так что Саакашвили в данном случае говорит правду.
А что ж на делать прикажете? Ждать, когда его танки в Рокский тоннель пройдут?

7. BBC Monitoring 7th August report separatist leader Sergei Bagapsh interview on Rossiya TV:

BBC World Monitor is a subscription service. No link can therefore be given.

8. Interview of Reuters photographer Said Tsarnayev, in Tskhinvali on 7 August:

Scene At Russia-Georgia Border Hinted At Scripted Affair
By Brian Whitmore
August 23, 2008

Said Tsarnayev stumbled into a war.

A Chechen freelance photographer with the Reuters news agency, Tsarnayev arrived in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, during the day on August 7. Travelling together with a colleague, Tsarnayev said he planned to take photographs of the environment and natural surroundings in the area for a project he was working on.

Once in Tskhinvali, he discovered a virtual army of Russian journalists at his hotel.

Speaking to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Tsarnayev, a resident of the Chechen capital, Grozny, said the Moscow-based reporters had been sent from various Russian media outlets days earlier, and were preparing to cover something big.

"At the hotel we discovered that there were already 48 Russian journalists there. Together with us, there were 50 people," Tsarnayev said. "I was the only one representing a foreign news agency. The rest were from Russian media and they arrived three days before we did, as if they knew that something was going to happen. Earlier at the border crossing, we met one man who was taking his wife and children from Tskhinvali."

Late that night, armed conflict broke out between Russia and Georgia.

'No Relationship To Reality'

Tsarnayev's account could not be independently confirmed. But it is consistent with mounting indications that Russia had been planning an attack on Georgia in advance, and was just waiting for a pretext to carry it out.

Russia's state-controlled media seemed extremely well-prepared to cover the outbreak of armed conflict in Georgia. Television networks immediately presented elaborate graphics with news anchors and commentators appearing to stick to disciplined talking points accusing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of aggression, and the Georgian armed forces of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The country's best English-speaking officials were made readily available to Western media, where they relentlessly pushed Moscow's line on the conflict: Russia was simply protecting its citizens and peacekeepers in South Ossetia from atrocities at the hands of Georgia's military.

In an interview with RFE/RL in the early days of the conflict, Steven Pifer, a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who is now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said Moscow's rhetoric and media narrative suggests they were preparing a large-scale operation.

"The rhetoric that is coming out of Moscow, ethnic cleansing and genocide, is just way over the top," Pifer said. "It's almost approaching the point where there is just no relationship to reality. But again, certainly the rhetoric is appropriate to a larger operation against Georgia to just stop and reverse whatever military gains the Georgians made in South Ossetia on [August 7]."

The apparently well-prepared media narrative is only part of the picture.

On August 3, authorities in Georgia's Moscow-backed separatist province of South Ossetia began evacuating hundreds of children to Russia. At the time, Georgian officials said the move could be a signal that separatist authorities, and their patrons in Russia, were preparing an offensive.

South Ossetian authorities said at the time that the evacuations were a precaution in case Georgia attempted to retake the province by force -- something Moscow and Tskhinvali had been accusing Tbilisi of plotting to do.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on August 21, the deputy head of Russia's General Staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, reiterated Moscow's claims that the Georgian side was preparing to use force.

"We have complaints against the OSCE regarding the initial stage of the conflict -- they were informed by the Georgian side that there would be an invasion, but they didn't warn the Russian peacekeepers," Nogovitsyn said.

In remarks reported by "The Washington Post," Georgian Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili said he gave the order for Georgian forces to "go out from their bases" at 6 p.m. local time local time on August 7, just one hour before Saakashvili announced a unilateral cease-fire.

Months In The Works

Kezerashvili said the Georgian troop movement was designed to deter South Ossetian separatists, who were firing across the de facto border into Georgian-controlled villages.

But observers say the march toward war on Moscow's side began months earlier.

In fact, hostilities began escalating soon after NATO delayed granting Membership Action Plans -- a key phase before full membership -- to Georgia and Ukraine at its summit in early April.

Less than two weeks later, Vladimir Putin, who was in the last month of his presidency, signed a decree authorizing direct relations with and assistance for Georgia's two pro-Moscow separatist provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Later in April, Russia deployed 1,500 additional troops, some of them heavily armed, to its "peacekeeping" contingent in Abkhazia without Georgia's consent -- an express violation of the 1994 cease-fire agreement.

Russia also began shooting down Georgia's unmanned drone aircraft that were conducting reconnaissance over Abkhazia. Russian military aircraft also began regularly violating Georgian airspace near the separatist territory.

In June, Russia deployed unarmed troops to Abkhazia to rebuild a rail link between Sukhumi and Ochamchira. At the time, Moscow presented the move as a humanitarian gesture to improve Abkhazia's transportation infrastructure. But U.S. and Georgian officials later pointed out that the railway was used to transport military equipment and munitions into Georgia during the conflict.

Then, with everybody watching Abkhazia, the focus abruptly shifted to South Ossetia.

In July, Russia's armed forces began massive military training exercises in the north Caucasus involving 8,000 servicemen and 700 pieces of military hardware. Russia's 58th Army, which would later spearhead the incursion into Georgia on August 8, was the key unit in those maneuvers.

The 58th Army remained in the North Caucasus after the exercises. Shortly thereafter, Georgian and South Ossetian separatist forces began exchanging artillery, mortar, and sniper fire across the de facto border. Georgian officials accuse the separatists of instigating the exchanges, but South Ossetian authorities deny the allegation.

Pifer said is appears that Russia laid a well-prepared trap for the Georgians, and Tbilisi took the bait.

"The Georgian leadership made a mistake on [August 7]. They should have understood from what they have seen from the Russians that the Russians were looking for a pretext. They [the Georgians] gave them that pretext when they decided to go in a fairly large way into South Ossetia," Pifer said. "The speed of the Russian response suggests that the Russians were ready, they were just waiting for the reason and they took that as the reason."

9. New York Times analysis of the telephone transcripts:

Georgia Offers Fresh Evidence on War’s Start
New York Times
September 16, 2008

This article was reported by Dan Bilefsky, C. J. Chivers, Thom Shanker and Michael Schwirtz and written by Mr. Chivers.

TBILISI, Georgia — A new front has opened between Georgia and Russia, now over which side was the aggressor whose military activities early last month ignited the lopsided five-day war. At issue is new intelligence, inconclusive on its own, that nonetheless paints a more complicated picture of the critical last hours before war broke out.

Georgia has released intercepted telephone calls purporting to show that part of a Russian armored regiment crossed into the separatist enclave of South Ossetia nearly a full day before Georgia’s attack on the capital, Tskhinvali, late on Aug. 7.

Georgia is trying to counter accusations that the long-simmering standoff over South Ossetia, which borders Russia, tilted to war only after it attacked Tskhinvali. Georgia regards the enclave as its sovereign territory.

The intercepts circulated last week among intelligence agencies in the United States and Europe, part of a Georgian government effort to persuade the West and opposition voices at home that Georgia was under invasion and attacked defensively. Georgia argues that as a tiny and vulnerable nation allied with the West, it deserves extensive military and political support.

Georgia also provided audio files of the intercepts along with English translations to The New York Times, which made its own independent translation from the original Ossetian into Russian and then into English.

Russia, already facing deep criticism and the coolest audience in European capitals since the cold war, is arguing vigorously against Georgia’s claims. Last week, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin expressed bafflement at what he saw as the West’s propensity to believe Georgia’s version of events.

In an interview arranged by the Kremlin, the Russian military played down the significance of the intercepted conversations, saying troop movements to the enclave before the war erupted were part of the normal rotation and replenishment of longstanding peacekeeping forces there.

But at a minimum, the intercepted calls, which senior American officials have reviewed and described as credible if not conclusive, suggest there were Russian military movements earlier than had previously been acknowledged, whether routine or hostile, into Georgian territory as tensions accelerated toward war.

They also suggest the enduring limits — even with high-tech surveillance of critical battlefield locations — of penetrating the war’s thick fogs.

The back and forth over who started the war is already an issue in the American presidential race, with Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican vice presidential candidate, contending that Russia’s incursion into Georgia was “unprovoked,” while others argue that Georgia’s shelling of Tskhinvali was provocation. Georgia claims that its main evidence — two of several calls secretly recorded by its intelligence service on Aug. 7 and 8 — shows that Russian tanks and fighting vehicles were already passing through the Roki Tunnel linking Russia to South Ossetia before dawn on Aug. 7.

By Russian accounts, the war began at 11:30 that night, when President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia ordered an attack on Russian positions in Tskhinvali. Russian combat units crossed the border into South Ossetia only later, Russia has said.

Russia has not disputed the veracity of the phone calls, which were apparently made by Ossetian border guards on a private Georgian cellphone network. “Listen, has the armor arrived or what?” a supervisor at the South Ossetian border guard headquarters asked a guard at the tunnel with the surname Gassiev, according to a call that Georgia and the cellphone provider said was intercepted at 3:52 a.m. on Aug. 7.

“The armor and people,” the guard replied. Asked if they had gone through, he said, “Yes, 20 minutes ago; when I called you, they had already arrived.”

Shota Utiashvili, the director of the intelligence analysis team at Georgia’s Interior Ministry, said the calls pointed to a Russian incursion. “This whole conflict has been overshadowed by the debate over who started this war,” he said. “These intercepted recordings show that Russia moved first and that we were defending ourselves.”

The recordings, however, do not explicitly describe the quantity of armor or indicate that Russian forces were engaged in fighting at that time.

Competing Accounts

Gen. Lt. Nikolai Uvarov of Russia, a former United Nations military attaché, who served as a Defense Ministry spokesman during the war, insisted that Georgia’s attack surprised Russia and that its leaders scrambled to respond while Russian peacekeeping forces were under fire. He said President Dmitri A. Medvedev had been on a cruise on the Volga River. Mr. Putin was at the Olympics in Beijing.

“The minister of defense, by the way, was on vacation in the Black Sea somewhere,” he said. “We never expected them to launch an attack.”

As for the claim that Russian forces entered the enclave early on Aug. 7, General Uvarov said military hardware regularly moved in and out of South Ossetia, supplying the Russian peacekeeping contingent there.

“Since we had here a battalion, they need fuel, they need products; naturally you have movement of troops,” he said. “But not combat troops specifically sent there to fight.” He added, “If it were a big reinforcement, then we wouldn’t have lost about 15 peacekeepers inside.”

Georgia disputed the Russian explanation, saying that under peacekeeping documents signed by both sides in 2004, rotations of the Russian peacekeeping battalion could be conducted only in daylight and after not less than a month of advance notification. There was no notification, Mr. Utiashvili said.

Why, he asked, was the duty officer at the Roki Tunnel apparently caught off guard, if this was, as the Russians said, a routine deployment of peacekeepers?

Georgian officials said they provided the materials last week to the United States and France, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, in addition to two reporters for The Times. The Times hired an independent Ossetian linguist in Russia to translate the recordings.
Vano Merabishvili, Georgia’s minister of interior, said he was told of the intercepts by Georgian intelligence within hours of their being recorded. The information, he said, was relayed to Mr. Saakashvili, who saw them as a sign of a Russian invasion.

Pressed as to why more than a month passed before the conversations came to light, Mr. Merabishvili said the file with the recordings was lost during the war when the surveillance team moved operations from Tbilisi, the capital, to the central city of Gori. Georgian intelligence officers later sifted through 6,000 files to retrieve copies, he said.

The Times provided a range of American government and military officials with copies of the independent translations for comment. They cautioned that while the conversations appeared to be from genuine cellphone intercepts, no complete or official assessment could be made without access to the entire file of cellphone audio gathered by the Georgians. They said the question of provocation and response in the conflict remained under scrutiny in Washington.

“We continue to look at that, both in terms of our intelligence assessment and then from what we get from on the ground,” said one senior American military officer who follows the situation in Georgia and agreed to discuss the matter on the condition of anonymity because it involved intelligence matters. “We have not been able to establish the ‘Who shot John?’ — the first shot.”
Talk of Armor in Tunnel

Georgia said its main evidence consisted of two conversations on Aug. 7 between Mr. Gassiev at the tunnel and his supervisor at the headquarters.

In the first conversation, logged at 3.41 a.m., Mr. Gassiev told the supervisor that a Russian colonel had asked Ossetian guards to inspect military vehicles that “crowded” the tunnel. Mr. Gassiev said: “The commander, a colonel, approached and said, ‘The guys with you should check the vehicles.’ Is that O.K.?”

Asked who the colonel was, Mr. Gassiev answered: “I don’t know. Their superior, the one in charge there. The B.M.P.’s and other vehicles were sent here and they’ve crowded there. The guys are also standing around. And he said that we should inspect the vehicles. I don’t know. And he went out.” A B.M.P. is a tracked armored vehicle that vaguely resembles a tank. It was one of the principal Russian military vehicles seen in the war, and in the peacekeeping contingent.

At 3:52 a.m., Mr. Gassiev informed the supervisor that armored vehicles had left the tunnel, commanded by a colonel he called Kazachenko. The colonel’s first name was not mentioned. According to unrelated Russian press reports after the war, Col. Andrei Kazachenko served in the 135th Motorized Rifle Regiment. The regiment provided peacekeepers in South Ossetia and fought in Tskhinvali during the war, General Uvarov said. The general said he had no information about Colonel Kazachenko.

Georgia’s claims about Russian movements appear to be at least partly supported by other information that emerged recently. Western intelligence determined independently that two battalions of the 135th Regiment moved through the tunnel to South Ossetia either on the night of Aug. 7 or the early morning of Aug. 8, according to a senior American official.

New Western intelligence also emerged last week showing that a motorized rifle element was assigned to a garrison just outside South Ossetia, on Russian territory, with the aim of securing the north end of the tunnel, and that it may have moved to secure the entire tunnel either on the night of Aug. 7 or early in the morning of Aug. 8, according to several American officials who were briefed on the findings.
On Sept. 3, Krasnaya Zvezda, the official newspaper of the Russian Defense Ministry, published an article in which a captain in the 135th Regiment, Denis Sidristy, said his unit had been ordered to cease a training exercise and move to Tskhinvali on Aug. 7.

After a query by The Times about the article, the Russian newspaper published an article last Friday in which the captain said the correct date for the advance to Tskhinvali was Aug. 8. Efforts to reach Captain Sidristy were unsuccessful.

A U.S. Official’s Account

Matthew J. Bryza, the deputy assistant secretary of state who coordinates diplomacy in the Caucasus, said the contents of the recorded conversations were consistent with what Georgians appeared to believe on Aug. 7, in the final hours before the war, when a brief cease-fire collapsed.
“During the height of all of these developments, when I was on the phone with senior Georgian officials, they sure sounded completely convinced that Russian armored vehicles had entered the Roki Tunnel, and exited the Roki Tunnel, before and during the cease-fire,” he said. “I said, under instructions, that we urge you not to engage these Russians directly.”

By the night of Aug. 7, he said, he spoke with Eka Tkeshelashvili, Georgia’s foreign minister, shortly before President Saakashvili issued his order to attack. “She sounded completely convinced, on a human level, of the Russian presence,” Mr. Bryza said. “ ‘Under these circumstances,’ she said, ‘We have to defend our villages.’ ”

General Uvarov, the senior Russian official, contended that the Georgians had acted rashly and without a clear understanding of their own intelligence.

According to the cease-fire agreement signed in the 1990s after the first war between Georgia and South Ossetia, Russia was allowed to maintain a 500-member peacekeeping force in the region, he said. And 300 reserve peacekeepers can be deployed in emergency situations, he said.

As the Georgians began their attack, about 100 reserve peacekeepers from the 135th Regiment were put on alert and moved close to the tunnel, he said. They were ordered through the tunnel to reinforce forces in Tskhinvali around dawn on Aug. 8, he said.

The first Russian combat unit — the First Battalion of the 135th Regiment — did not pass through the Roki Tunnel until 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 8, more than 14 hours after the Georgians began shelling Tskhinvali, he said.

The battalion, he said, did not reach Tskhinvali until the next evening, having met heavy Georgian resistance. Georgia disputes that account, saying it was in heavy combat with Russian forces near the tunnel long before dawn. One thing was clear by then. The war had begun.

Dan Bilefsky and C. J. Chivers reported from Tbilisi, Georgia; Thom Shanker from Washington; and Michael Schwirtz from Moscow.

Annex: “know your enemy” leaflet distributed to soldiers participating in the exercises in the north Caucasus in July 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Statement by the Ministry of Defence of Georgia

On September 6 the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published an article by Nikolas Busse titled “Soviet war of movement in Georgia” (Sowjetischer Bewegungskrieg in Georgien).

The article claims that representatives of the Georgian General Staff have briefed NATO headquarters in Brussels about the war, and says: “The representatives of the Georgian Forces have reported to the allies that they were against a military attack on South Ossetia.” It adds: “diplomats at NATO say that the statements of the General Staff could be an attempt to wash itself clean and put the blame about the lost war to Saakashvili”.

The Ministry of Defence of Georgia hereby states that no representative of the Georgian General Staff have ever given NATO such a briefing. The General Staff of Georgia is under the civilian control of the democratically elected Government of Georgia, an arrangement whose effectiveness has been praised by numerous NATO assessment teams commenting on the success of the democratic reforms of Georgia’s military forces.

The position of the Georgian Government on the events leading to the War and explanations why and when decisions by the Government were taken can be found in the Government document Timeline of Russian Aggression in Georgia. This document has been distributed to all NATO capitals and to NATO headquarters days before the FAZ article was published. It is self-evident that this is also the position of the Georgian Ministry of Defence and its General Staff.
We are not aware of any briefings given by anyone formally connected with the Armed Forces of Georgia. Therefore, we hereby request that the NATO press office publicly respond to the false claims disseminated by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Russia continues to violate ceasefire agreement resulting in death

At 10:15am this morning, shots were fired from a nearby Russian post at a Georgian police post near the entrance to the village of Karaleti in the Gori district. As a result, a Georgian policeman, Kakha Tsotniashvili, was badly wounded in the head and throat. He died shortly afterwards in hospital. The Georgian side did not return fire.

This incident provides yet another proof that the Russian side continues to grossly violate the six-point ceasefire document. The Russian Federation’s armed forces not only do not comply with the political commitments undertaken by their President before the European Union and Georgia but go as far as to completely disregard them thus causing the death of innocent people.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia calls on the international community, European Union and OSCE in particular, to give due assessment to the killing of the Georgian policeman and employ all levers at their disposal to investigate this crime and bring perpetrators to justice.

Shots fired from Russian checkpoint




Monday, September 8, 2008

Meeting with Lubomir Zaoralek

On 8 September 2008 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Grigol Vashadze met with Vice-Chairman of Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament Lubomir Zaoralek and his Adviser in issues of Foreign Relations Peter Feleg.

The meeting was attended by Director of the Department of European Affairs Kakha Sikharulidze and III Secretary of the Department Maka Khvadagiani.

During the meeting the sides discussed the issues of current situation in Georgia, Russian aggression towards Georgia and ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population by the Russian side on the occupied Georgian territories. The sides also paid attention to the necessity of EU’s more strong involvement.

Two Jets Enter Georgian Airspace, Poti Checkpoints Reinforced

Tbilisi, 7 September 2008 - from about 11:20 AM this morning, two jets illegally entered Gorgian airspace from the Russian Federation and proceeded to circle over Tskhinvali and Shatili for a period of about 45 minutes, presumably on a reconnaissance mission. The precise aircraft type could not be confirmed.

Meanwhile, the Russian occupation force are reinforcing, rather than vacating, its checkpoints near the strategic commercial port of Poti, which was visited by the USS Mount Whitney, the command ship of the US Navy's 6th Fleet, yesterday. The Nabada checkpoint was today expanded by 5 armoured presonnel carriers (APC) and about 50 troops. The Patara Poti checkpoint was reinforced by one APC, another vehicle and about 10 troops.

These troop movements come a day before Presidents Sarkozy and Barroso and High Representative Javier Solana are scheduled to visit Moscow and Tbilisi to ascertain the implementation of the 6-point ceasefire agreement. According to that agreement, Russian forces ought to have left Georgian core terrority weeks ago already. The repeated violation of Georgian airspace and the expansion of Russia's checkpoint system far from the conflict zone suggests that the Russian Federation has no intention to honour its commitments.

Ethnic Cleansing Case Against Russia to Open on Monday, September 8, at the International Court of Justice

Hearing to focus on Georgia’s request for provisional measures by the Court to prevent further cases of ethnic cleansing following the Russian invasion of Georgia

The International Court of Justice will hear arguments on Monday, September 8, in the case Georgia has brought against the Russian Federation for ethnic cleansing and for its support of separatism on Georgian territory. The charges relate to instances of ethnic cleansing beginning in the early 1990s and through recent days.

Since ethnic cleansing by Russia and its proxy forces appears to be continuing, the Government of Georgia has asked the ICJ to consider, in parallel to its original application, an emergency Provisional Measure Request. If endorsed by the Court, the emergency measures could help forestall further violence against ethnic Georgians.

Georgia’s application to the ICJ, filed on August 12, 2008, was initiated under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which both Georgia and Russia are party. The Ministry of Justice of Georgia began preparing the case against Russia earlier this year; but the recent Russian invasion of Georgia, which triggered a new wave of ethnic cleansing, forced Georgia to speed up its submission to the Court.

During the hearings—which begin tomorrow, September 8—the Court will examine the Provisional Measure Request and will not rule on the merits of the case.

The Government of Georgia will present its arguments on Monday from 10:00-13:00 CET. The respondent state, the Russian Federation, will have the opportunity to submit its arguments on the same day, from 15:00-18:00 CET. Georgia will be given time for a rebuttal on Tuesday, September 9; Russia can follow with a sur-rebuttal on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 10. The Court will have time for its decision.

Statement concerning Der Spiegel article

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia finds it necessary to make its comment regarding an article published in the last week’s issue of German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ claiming that the OSCE Mission in Georgia released a report on the acts of aggression committed by the Georgian side in the Tskhinvali region and this report was not submitted to all member states of OSCE. Immediately after the publication of this article respective OSCE agencies stated unequivocally that all kinds of reports prepared regularly by the OSCE Mission in Georgia are sent immediately and without exception to all members states of OSCE and none of the Mission’s reports contains information similar to that indicated by ‘Der Spiegel’.

The Georgian side was convinced that the misunderstanding was only a matter of the use of unverified information by the media agency and the issue would be closed shortly after OSCE’s respective clarifications.

It is regrettable, however, that a week after resolving this misunderstanding, the Russian side artificially brought forward the issue again and started to speak about certain ‘investigations’.

It points to a worrisome fact that the Russian side in order to justify its large-scale aggression against Georgia, occupation of Georgian territories and ethnic cleansing of ethnic Georgians, tries to shift the blame for the crimes committed by Russian troops in the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia as well as on other parts of the Georgian Territory to Georgia by any means, including by invoking non-existing ‘reports’ of the OSCE Mission in Georgia and manipulating over this issue.

It needs to be emphasized that at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council held on 4 September the OSCE Chairmanship made it clear once again that the information published by ‘Der Spiegel’ does not correspond to the reality.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia strictly condemns the Russian Federation’s yet another attempt to involve the international community in its manipulations and calls on the Russian side to refrain from the use of similar cheap maneuvers in the future.

Tbilisi, 5 September 2008

Violations of the Six-Point Cease Fire Agreement by the Russian Federation

On August 15, 2008 President of Georgia signed the six-point cease-fire agreement mediated by President N. Sarkozy. A day later, the same document was signed by President Medvedev. President Sarkozy later issued a Communiqué in which he made public common vision of various provisions of the agreement, which he had previously shared with the signatory parties to achieve shared understanding of the document.

Despite numerous calls from international community, the ceasefire agreement has not yet been implemented by the Russian Federation, while Georgia continues to implement it in good faith, disregarding the provocations from the Russian Federation.

Provision of humanitarian assistance (Point 3)

Cease-fire agreement envisages that the parties should give free access to the humanitarian assistance towards those in need. Despite this, the Russian Federation’s armed forces have consistently blocked access of the humanitarian aid to the Tskhinvali region and villages around it. Several international organizations have complained about this.

Moreover, unarmed OSCE MMOs who are supposed to monitor the situation on the ground and report on a number of issues, including humanitarian needs, are not allowed into the Georgian villages south to the zone of conflict.

Withdrawal of the Russian military forces to the places of their permanent deployment (point 5)

Withdrawal of the Russian military forces to the positions prior to the outbreak of hostilities implies that they have to go back to the positions they held prior to August 6. This is the position reiterated by the European Union, United States and other members of international community, including Georgia. Unfortunately, Russian Federation has not yet fulfilled this provision. Reportedly, more than 10.000 troops are located in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region even today. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities the Russian Federation was supposed not to have any troops in either the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, or Abkhazia. In South Ossetia only a peacekeeping battalion of 500 (plus 300 reserves) was to be deployed, whereas in Abkhazia only up to 2.500-3.000 CIS peacekeepers were to be located. Currently the number of the Russian Federation’s military forces on the Georgian territory significantly exceeds margins allowed under the cease fire agreement.

To fully implement the provision in question, the Russian Federation has to withdraw its entire military (non-peacekeeping) contingent from the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and to immediately withdraw all forces from other parts of Georgia. Setting up military basis in these regions as intended by the Russian Federation also runs contrary to the provisions of the cease fire agreement.

Right of the Russian peacekeepers to implement additional security measures (Point 5)

Nature of the additional security measures:

The Russian Federation keeps claiming that, according to the six-point ceasefire agreement, it may establish permanent checkpoints, make dig-outs and conduct various activities as the ceasefire agreement envisages the implementation of additional security measures. Nevertheless the Communiqué issued and made public by the President of France states that the additional security measures "will take the form of patrols”, not any kind of permanent checkpoints. This is the common interpretation of the nature of additional security measures by the EU, US and Georgia.

However, the Russian Federation has already established 23 permanent checkpoints in various parts of Georgia, which is a clear and grave violation of the cease-fire agreement.

Geographic scope of the additional security measures:

In compliance with common understanding of territorial limits for the additional security measures to be implemented, their geographic scope is limited by the "area not further than a few kilometers, around Tskhinvali within the zone of conflict”. While the documents which have regulated the conflict are now defunct, the zone of conflict, however, was considered to be a 15-kilometer area around the center of Tskhinvali (Protocol of a JCC meeting of 12 July 1992). Therefore, any additional security measure that the Russian Federation may implement under the cease-fire agreement has to be limited to the zone under review. [1] In this regard it is absolutely unacceptable and unjustifiable to have Russian military forces stationed in Western Georgia, including such places as Poti and Senaki. Their presence in these areas is completely illegal and can not be explained. Same applies to Akhalgori region, which has always been administered by the central authorities of Georgia. Currently Akhalgori region is occupied by Russian military forces and Georgians are being expelled en masse. According to the ceasefire agreement Russian military troops also have to be withdrawn from Akhalgori region, as they have not been stationed there before and no additional security measures can be applied to this region.

Communiqué of the President of France states that the additional security measures can in no way”limit or jeopardize freedom of movement and traffic along the length of the major highways and railways of Georgia”. Russian soldiers are currently stationed in Western Georgia (Poti and Senaki) along the major highway, whereas in Eastern Georgia they are limiting freedom of movement towards Satchkhere, villages that are located north of Gori and Akhalgori. Russian soldiers frequently stop and search the cars.

Therefore, as there is no legal or political justification of the Russian presence outside of the zone of conflict, they have to withdraw from the occupied territories as soon as possible.

Until then core principle of the cease-fire agreement is being violated.

International mechanism, which substitutes additional security measures undertaken by the Russian peacekeepers (Point 5)

According to the ceasefire agreement "while awaiting an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces will implement additional security measures”. It is a common understanding reflected in the above Communiqué that these measures "will have a provisional character while awaiting the establishment as quickly as possible of the "international mechanism” whose nature and mandate are still the subject of discussion by different international entities, in particular the OSCE, the European Union, and the United Nations”.

This means that as soon as the decision to deploy OSCE monitors, or to deploy the EU monitors in and around the zone of conflict is finalized, Russian peacekeepers will have to immediately cease implementing additional security measures in the conflict zone in South Ossetia. Currently, 20 OSCE MMOs are already in Georgia and have started to work, while EU is contemplating to send monitors. This means that the first step towards the creation of international mechanism has been taken. Negotiations on the mandate of additional 80 MMOs are still pending in the OSCE, whereas EU is still elaborating details of the deployment of 200 observers. As soon as either of the decisions is finalized, Russian forces will lose the right to implement "additional security measures”.

Opening of international discussions on security and stability modalities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Point 6)

According to the cease-fire agreement, the signatories agreed that international discussion was to be launched on the modalities of security and stability in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The President of the Russian Federation preempted all future discussions regarding the stability and security in Abkhazia and South Ossetia by unilaterally recognizing their independence. By doing so, Russian Federation acted contrary to the spirit and letter of the agreement.

[1] Russian Federation claims that its troops are located currently in the security zone (also referring to it as a buffer zone) around South Ossetia. There is not a single document which establishes the security zone, or a buffer zone around South Ossetia, therefore locating Russian troops in a self-proclaimed security zone is unacceptable and constitutes the occupation of Georgian territory. At various times Russian Federation justified its presence on the territory of Georgia by referring to the former so-called area of responsibility of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces as established by the 1999 JCC Protocol. This claim is irrelevant. Albeit in 1999 the lines of the area of responsibility were approved by the JCC, mandate of the peacekeeping force itself was not enhanced to operate in this area. Mandate of the JPKF was limited to the zone of conflict, whereas all the decisions to act within this zone were to be taken by the joint decision of the heads of the peacekeeping battalions from Georgian, (North-) Ossetian and Russian sides. Therefore, Russian claim to use 1999 JCC protocol to justify its presence on the territories well beyond the conflict zone is deprived of any legal ground and irrelevant.

Meeting with U.S. Ambassador John Teft

On 5 September 2008 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Grigol Vashadze received Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to Georgia John Teft.

Discussions focused on the results of US Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit to Georgia and the issues of bilateral relations.

Meeting with Peter Semneby

On 5 September 2008 Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Eka Tkeshelashvili met with EU Special representative for South Caucasus Peter Semneby.

The sides discussed the situation resulting from Russia’s aggression and occupation of part of the Georgian territory. In this context discussions focused on the format and possible directions of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) Observer Mission.

Talking points included, inter alia, a broad spectrum of topical issues, icluding relations between Georgia and the European Union.

Meeting with Slovenian Ambassador

On 5 September 2008 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Mr. Grigol Vashadze received Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Slovenia Mr. Primož Šeligo (with residence in Kiev) due to come through with his mission in Georgia in the upcoming days.

During the meeting the sides discussed the issues of current situation in Georgia, Russian aggression towards Georgia and ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population by the Russian side on the occupied Georgian territories. The sides also paid attention to the necessity of EU’s more strong involvement.

On a final note, Mr. Deputy Minister gave a high appraisal to the Ambassador’s activity in Georgia and thanked him for his significant contribution to advancing the existing relations between the two countries.

Meeting with Per Eklund

On 4 September 2008, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eka Tkeshelashvili and Secretary of the National Security Council Aleksandre Lomaia held a meeting with Special Representative of the European Commission in Georgia Per Eklund and a representative of the EU Assessment Mission to Georgia Kim Friedberga.

The sides discussed the situation in Georgia’s conflict regions. They also focused on a future mandate of the EU Observer Mission in Georgia and principles of cooperation with the Georgian side.

At the end of the meeting the sides agreed to continue actively their consultations and cooperation in this direction.

Grigol Vashadze meets with experts of the EU Council

On 4 September 2008 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Grigol Vashadze met with experts of the EU Council and political advisers to the EU Special Representative for South Caucasus, on their request.

The aim of the meeting was to continue a regular dialogue between the European Union and Georgia on the situation resulting from Russia’s aggression and invasion of the Georgian territory. The sides also focused on the decisions adopted by the Extraordinary European Council Meeting held in Brussels on 1 September 2008 and EU-initiated concrete measures aimed at their implementation.

European experts noted that the extension of the office of the EU Special Representative for South Caucasus has already been launched in compliance with the Council decisions. Up to 20 European experts (so-called crisis response team) are already on the ground engaged in choosing locations for EU groups of monitors throughout the entire territory of Georgia and preparing them for the European Union’s ESDP Mission.

The Georgian side once again noted with satisfaction that the European Council’s decisions register clearly the European Union’s joint, firm and unequivocal position on the recognition of the principle of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as a basis for resolving the crisis between Russia and Georgia; strict demand to Russia to ensure immediate implementation of the 6-point ceasefire agreement and withdrawal of all troops from the territory of Georgia; the strengthening of the European Union’s role in addressing the crisis and securing a lasting solution to the conflicts, as well as in promoting Georgia’s integration with the European Union.

On the European side’s request, the Deputy Foreign Minister acquainted the European experts with the actual state of affairs in Georgia as well as on its occupied territories and provided them with full information on all illegal control checkpoints set up by Russia in Georgia.

Info regarding simplification of visa regime with the Russian Federation

On 3 September 2008 the President of Georgia issued Decree N 426 on the simplification of visa regime with the Russian Federation.

In connection with the lifting of martial law on the territory of Georgia and the Russian Federation’s suspension of consular relations with Georgia, the Georgian Border Police – a state agency under the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has been entrusted to restore the issuance of visas (with a validity of up to three months) to citizens of the Russian Federation at all border checkpoints for international traffic.

To obtain a Georgian visa, a citizen is required to submit a valid foreign passport and fill in a visa application form. Visa fee is 60 GEL.

The Presidential Decree will enter into force upon publication.

Comments on Ceasefire Agreement implementation

Question: How would you assess the comment of the Russian Foreign Ministry regarding the implementation of the ceasefire agreement reached through the mediation efforts of the President of France?

Answer: First of all, it needs to be emphasized that contrary to the Russian side’s claim there is no document titled ‘Medvedev-Sarkoz’ plan or initiative. There applies a six-point ceasefire agreement, which French President Sarkozy offered to Russia and Georgia and which was signed by the President of Georgia on 15 August 2008 and by the President of Russia on 16 August.

Given the Russian Federation’s large-scale military aggression against Georgia, occupation of an important part of its sovereign territory and mass ethnic cleansing conducted there, Russia’s attempts to mislead the international community and its own population and justify illegal acts committed in Georgia come as no surprise to anyone.

The Russian Foreign Ministry claims that the Ceasefire Agreement’s first paragraph on the non-use of force concerns ‘first of all the Georgian Authorities’. This claim, however, is only a product of the Russian side’s wrong interpretation. Neither the Ceasefire Agreement nor President Sarkozy’s explanations give any such definition. Provision on the non-use of force applies to and is equally binding on both, rather than either, of the parties to the conflict – Russia and Georgia. We’d like to remind the Russian side that it was the Russian Federation that continued to violate ceasefire within a number of days from the signing of the ceasefire agreement. Georgia, in the meantime, unilaterally announced ceasefire on 10 August and transmitted a respective official note to the Russian Federation. We remain committed to our obligations.

Another principle regarding abstinence from military actions was also subject to violation for several days by the Russian Federation, despite President Medvedev’s statement of 12 August on termination of military actions. Russian troops remain stationed on the occupied territories of Georgia – not only in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region but also outside the conflict zones. Moreover, Russia is planning to deploy military bases in the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia. Against such background, the Russian side’s demagoguery ‘accusations’ concerning the threat of Georgia’s militarization served the only purpose of showing to the international community how much ‘consistently’ Russia is complying with its treaty commitments.

The Russian Federation is also in systematic violation of the third paragraph of the Ceasefire Agreement envisaging unhindered access of humanitarian cargoes to the Tskhinvali region. The international organizations concerned have confirmed repeatedly that Russian troops are barring them from entering the Tskhinvali region and distributing humanitarian aid there. It should also be noted that as a result of Russia-masterminded ethnic cleansing in the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia, which is still underway, tens of thousands of Georgian citizens were forced to leave their places of residence under direct threat from the part of Russian servicemen and illegal armed gangs. The international non-governmental organization HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH has confirmed repeatedly in its reports that Russian servicemen deny Georgians access to their homes.

Also groundless is the Russian Federation’s accusations against the Georgian Authorities concerning violation of the fourth principle. Georgian troops returned to the places of their permanent deployment before the French President-initiated ceasefire agreement was signed. And this return took place despite the fact that Russian troops robbed and inflicted heavy damage on the military bases in Gori and Senaki. Not a single military unit of the Georgian armed forces is presently stationed outside the place of its permanent deployment. The Russian side stubbornly keeps turning the blind eye to that. There is however one point on which we would agree with the Russian side – it concerns activation of the role of an international observer mission in Georgia. To put an end to the Russian side’s speculations is only possible through an effective international monitoring.

The Russian side’s statements with respect to the fifth principle contain mutually exclusive claims. On the one hand, the Russian side claims that it has concluded withdrawal of its troops from the territory of Georgia to the positions that existed prior to the war. However, it becomes known that a certain contingent of Russian troops still remain in the Tskhinvali region allegedly on request of the so-called ‘South Ossetian leadership’. It is a widely known fact that not a single paragraph of the Ceasefire Agreement envisages leaving any division of Russian troops on the territory of Georgia, except for a contingent designed for ‘temporary security measures’. It is interesting to note that over 17 000 Russian servicemen are currently stationed in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, based on the reliable information available to the Georgian side.

According to the Ceasefire Agreement, ‘temporary measures of security’ envisage patrolling in a radius of a few kilometers around Tskhinvali without the right to set up permanent checkpoints. The actual state of affairs, however, is that there are 23 illegal checkpoints functioning outside Abkhazia and South Ossetia staffed by 1000 Russian servicemen.

It also proceeds from the Russian side’s statements that they have defined a so-called ‘security zone around South Ossetia’ that has never been agreed between the sides. Nor the Ceasefire Agreement envisages creation of any such zone.

Totally unacceptable are the Russian side’s speculations with respect to the sixth point of the Ceasefire Agreement. By unleashing a large-scale military aggression against Georgia and occupation of its territories, the Russian side has itself disrupted all the agreements that used to regulate peacekeeping processes in both Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region prior to the breakout of the war. Georgia was forced to assert this new reality and repeal these agreements formally.

After conclusion of ‘temporary measures of security’ envisaged by the Ceasefire Agreement, there can be no talk about continuation of any form of Russian armed presence on the territory of Georgia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia calls on the Russian side to comply in good faith with the commitments undertaken before the international community, abstain from the use of hostile and inflammatory rhetoric and resort to the practice of resolving matters in a civilized way.

Through the use of the illegal Abkhaz and Tskhinvali regimes, employment of ethnic cleansing and misinformation as an instrument of foreign policy and the rhetoric aimed at misleading the international community, the Russian side is trying absolutely illegally to maintain its military presence on the territory of Georgia, continue invading a large part of the sovereign territory, legalize the consequences of the ethnic cleansing and thus inflict maximum damage on the development of the Georgian State.

Franco Frattini visits Georgia

On 3 September 2008 Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Italy Franco Frattini paid a visit to Georgia.

The Italian Foreign Minister met with his Georgian counterpart, Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili, Prime Minister Vladimer Gurgenidze, Minister of Refugees and Accommodation Tamar Martiashvili and President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili.

Mr. Frattini reaffirmed Italy’s support for the territorial integrity of Georgia and emphasized that Italy was one of the first countries to render Georgia humanitarian assistance and remains committed to further assist Georgia in case of necessity.

The Italian Foreign Minister focused on the decisions adopted by the leaders of the EU member states in Brussels and confirmed that 27 countries of Europe were unanimous in recognizing the principle of Georgia’s territorial integrity and the necessity for Russia to comply with the six-point ceasefire agreement.

Following the meeting, Mrs. Tkeshelashvili and Mr. Frattini held a joint press conference.

Transcript of the joint briefing of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and the Republic of Italy:

Mrs. Eka Tkeshelashvili:

Thank you for your attendance. I had a very interesting meeting with Mr. Frattini and it is very important that this meeting was held shortly after the EU Council adopted its decision. We had a good opportunity to discuss in detail the essence and contents of this decision and share our views on a number of issues.

Of great importance in this context was to outline one fundamental point on which our positions fully coincide - it is our firm expectation from the Russian side to fully comply with the ceasefire agreement. it is an imperative, which both the European Union and Italy have made clear in the aforesaid decision and this message to the Russian Federation is unequivocal, absolutely distinct and reinforced with certain timeline.

On 8 September the European Union will make at the highest level its first assessment of the extent to which Russia complies with the ceasefire agreement that will allow the European Union to determine its further steps with respect to the Russian Federation.

The decision adopted in Brussels was of paramount importance in many respects. First of all, the European Union’s motivation and involvement in the process of Georgia’s reconstruction and economic development was demonstrated very clearly. But even more important was the European Union’s unequivocal support for the Georgian Authorities. Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will be always supported and reinforced by the European Union. Moreover, the European Union sent a clear signal to all other states to adhere to the same principle. The decision adopted in Brussels marks the start of a new process, which is just beginning to come into existence. Such are the general expectations of the European Union and Italy is one of the founders of EU values. Our great thanks for the Italian Government for this support and now let me give the floor to my colleague.

Mr. Franco Frattini:

Thank you very much. It was a great pleasure to be here to have this very fruitful dialogue with my dear college. I wanted to be here after the very important EU Council meeting. I want to stress the importance of walking together towards keeping balance and reaffirming commitment towards helping Georgia and people that are in need here and Italy played its part in this process.

Also, we want to reaffirm the principle of Georgia’s territorial integrity and our good will to cooperate in order to get Georgia closer to European Union. This was very important decision that was taken by European Union unanimously and I would say Italy has playing a positive role.

What is very important is to send a strong message to the Russian Federation. Europe is united; Europe does want six points agreement to be fully implemented. So we want this to be a success before the visit of President Sarcozy on 8 September to Moscow. And I am here to reaffirm Italian commitment to cooperate towards the full implementation of the six-point agreement and implementation of the decision taken by the EU council. Italy is ready to play its part, first to contribute to improving capacity of getting Georgia closer to EU in many areas – visa regime, walking towards a free trade area between EU and Georgia, capacity to attract investments, capacity to reconstruct all areas that are damaged by this August crisis that led to losses of human lives.

Italy is ready to participate in launching a European Monitoring Mission in Georgia. We will ensure that the monitoring mission has an access to all the territory of Georgia, including South Ossetia. We need to remove all checkpoints that contradict the six-point agreement which talks about the patrolling by Russian troops and not establishing permanent checkpoints.

There is also another point of political cooperation between Georgia and EU. We want to offer opportunities not only for economic reconstruction, but to have a political dialogue between EU member states and Georgia. Italy intends to contribute to such discussions with thoughts in perspective of providing the European Commission with further elements to prepare a comprehensive proposal to be put on the table on the sidelines of the European Council by March.

But now we need urgent action and the urgent action is first of to guarantee as soon as possible in few days’ time before the visit of President Sarkozy the full implementation of the six-point agreement including the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Georgia. You know we have decided to postpone technical negotiations with the Russian Federation until the withdrawal process is completed. We know the Russian Federation has announced this afternoon to have withdrawn troops from Poti area, we will check it.

On a bilateral point of view, I reaffirmed to my colleague the practical and political commitment of the Italian Government to cooperate in terms of humanitarian aid. Italy was the first country to be here on the 17th of August to send humanitarian aid for people who were in need of help. But what is more necessary is to guarantee a political support and we are ready to do exactly so, thank you.