Russia has expressed satisfaction with an independent report on its five-day war with former Soviet Republic Georgia in August 2008. The report was commissioned by the EU and published yesterday (30 September).
The report, commissioned by the EU and drafted under the leadership of Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, gives an unequivocal answer to the main question of who started the war, said Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, talking to the Brussels press.
“It says squarely that it was the Georgian massive shelling and artillery attack on the city of Tshinvali [the main city of the Georgian province of South Ossetia], during the night of 7-8 August 2008, which marked the beginning of large-scale hostilities,” the diplomat said, displaying visible satisfaction.
Report as big as a brick
Chizhov, who displayed a copy of the brick-sized report and even posed for photos, explained that he had received it just hours beforehand and could not comment in depth, explaining that a reaction from a higher level would come later. But he added that the report was “not a big surprise” and confirmed things that Russia “already knew”.
Asked by journalists what he expected to happen next, he expressed hope that those countries who were still unsure of where responsibility for the Georgia war lies would now come up with a “clearer position”. He said he also hoped that countries which support Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili would now “think twice”, claiming that those seeking to poison the overall improvement of his country’s relations with the US and the West in general under US President Barack Obama had suffered a blow.
“I think Mr Saakhashvili should have resigned a long time ago,” Chizhov said.
Poland has led a number of initiatives in support of Saakashvili since the conflict, in conjunction with the Baltic countries and the Czech Republic. Poland had demanded an investigation into the Georgia war in the hope that it would accuse Russia of aggression.
Asked by EURACTIV to name the countries which in his view would be disappointed by the report, Chizhov refused to do so, but said he hoped their number would be limited.
The Russian diplomat dismissed the view that the Russian military incursion into Georgia at the time of the war was a disproportionate response.
“The Russian response was proportional, swift and to the point,” he hammered home.
Georgia also expressed satisfaction with the report’s findings, emphasising that the Russian invasion had violated international law.
“The allegations of my country have been proven. It was Georgia which came under invasion from another country, in violation of international law,” its ambassador to the EU, Salome Samadashvili, quoted by AFP.
Provocation ‘from both sides’
Andrei Ilarionov, a Russian researcher working for the US Cato Institute think-tank, also made a presentation in Brussels, pointing to Russia’s “provocations”, which he said had lured Georgia into a trap. Both sides were setting up traps for each other, he said, before recounting a series of incidents and developments in which Russia had acted as the provocateur every time.
But Ilarionov admitted that it was a “mad” decision for Georgia to start the military attack on the night of 7 August 2008. Asked by EURACTIV if he believed that the Georgian leadership was counting on the military support of the West, he was categorical in saying that to the contrary, the West had made no promises and only advised Tbilisi not to fall victim to provocations.
The Russian researcher also disclosed that senior US diplomats did not even report Saakashvili’s worried telephone calls preceding the conflict to a higher authority.
Matthew Bryza, US deputy assistant secretary of state, and Daniel Fried, principal deputy special adviser to then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, never reported his concerns, said Ilarionov, adding that he was certain of his sources.