They say truth is the first casualty of war, and this war is no exception. But, on the day the EU is discussing the issue at the highest level, it’s about time to set the record straight.
The story told by the international media is simple and easy to digest, but it is a gross over-simplification, and it fundamentally misrepresents the reality of the situation.
According to this story, on August 7 Georgia and its government of incautious hawks and hotheads decided to use military force to retake the separatist province of South Ossetia. Russia, long waiting for an excuse to make trouble, leapt upon Georgia’s ‘gamble’ as a pretext to punish Georgia for being too western.
But that’s just not the way it happened.
This crisis did not begin on August 7. For seven days prior to the Russian invasion, peaceful Georgian and mixed Georgian-Ossetian villages in South Ossetia had come under attack from the separatist ‘capital’ Tskhinvali. South Ossetia has always been an ethnic mosaic, and many Georgian and mixed villages are situated just on the outskirts of the town.
From the early hours of August 1, these villages sustained tremendous damage. Attacks from high calibre machine guns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades caused civilian casualties, and destruction of property on a massive scale. The high-calibre weapons used by the separatists were supplied by Russia. These weapons are illegal in the conflict zone, under the terms of the international agreements Russia so strenuously claims Georgia has broken. By using these weapons, South Ossetia officially broke the cessation of hostilities agreement, and effectively went to war. Still, Georgia did nothing, hoping the attack would stop.
All through this onslaught, the so-called Russian ‘peacekeepers’ who were stationed in the area did nothing. In spite of Georgian efforts to defuse the situation, the hostilities continued. And night after night, yet more damage was done, and more and more innocent civilians hurt.
Officials in charge of conflict settlement travelled to the region on a daily basis in an attempt to begin negotiations and avoid bloodshed. Each time they attempted to talk, the separatists came up with lame excuses