- Title: GEORGIA: Georgia conducts investigation into causes of August war
- Date: 1st November 2008
- Summary: (BN09) TSKHINVALI, SOUTH OSSETIA, GEORGIA (FILE - AUGUST 11, 2008) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF RUSSIAN MILITARY COLUMN DRIVING THROUGH TSKHINVALI DAMAGED APARTMENT BUILDING RESIDENTS WATCHING BODIES OF DEAD SOLDIERS UNDER COVER ON GROUND (BN09) GORI, GEORGIA (FILE - AUGUST 12, 2008) (REUTERS) VIEW OF TOWN, EXPLOSIONS (BN09) ERGNETI, GEORGIA (FILE - AUGUST 8, 2008) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF RUSSIAN JETS FLYING LOW
- Embargoed: 16th November 2008 12:00
- Location: Georgia
- Country: Georgia
- Topics: War / Fighting,International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVAAFKTF0160SZA87HQZE1KOBRKC
- Story Text: The Georgian government opens an investigation into the causes of the brief August war during which Russia swept aside the Georgian army in days, driving back its offensive to retake South Ossetia from pro-Russian separatists.
Georgian General Mamuka Kurashvili, accused of wrongly announcing an attack against South Ossetia was underway before Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had given the order for it begin, was among those testifying in the first open session on Tuesday (October 28) of a parliamentary committee tasked with determining the sequence of events during the conflict.
On the night of August 7 2008, after a ceasefire had broken down, Kurashvili, Commander of Georgian Peacekeeping Operations, told journalists Georgia was moving to " restore constitutional order" which was interpreted to mean that an attack was underway on South Ossetia.
Georgian Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Zaza Gogava said the order to attack was given about thirty-five minutes after Kurashvili's announcement to journalists, which was broadcast on national television.
"That's at 2335, on August 7, 2008, on a special telephone line which I got as Chief of Staff, as well as some other high ranking officials, well, I received a call from the Commander in Chief (Saakashvili) who said that those actions (by the Russians) were untenable," Gogava told the committee.
Gogava was referring to Georgian claims that the Russians had begun bombing ethnic Georgian villages inside South Ossetia.
Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Iakobashvili, also testifying, outlined the details of Saakashvili's order to the committee.
"There were three orders, to stop the column of Russian tanks that were heading to Tskhinvali, the second order was to eliminate all five places from where the bombardment of our villages originated, and the third order was minimum losses among peaceful civilians," Iakobashvili said.
Georgian National Security Council Secretary Khaka Lomaia told the committee Kurashvili had not consulted with anyone in the government or defence forces before making his announcement.
"General Kurashvili's statement was not authorised. He didn't have the right to make that statement, which was not correct," Lomaia said.
Kurashvili admitted he had made the announcement without consultations, and that it was wrong.
"I had just come from the battlefield and I had shell-shock. The briefing was not prepared, I was standing on the road, and the journalists just turned up there. So I was not prepared and I made an impulsive statement, it was an impulsive statement," Kurashvili, who has been reprimanded by the Defence Ministry for his statement, told the committee.
Parliamentarian and Commission Head Paata Davitaia asked Kurashvili if Russian claims that their troops moved in after being attacked by the Georgian side were true. Kurashvili testified that they were not.
"That's not true. What I saw with my own eyes was that Russian military planes were bombing their own checkpoints. That's true. I've seen a lot of things in my life, but I've never seen anything like that. There were so many Russian sorties over Tskhinvali," Kurashvili said.
The committee has been holding closed-door hearings for the past several weeks and a second open session is scheduled for November 8.
Analysts say the parliamentary investigation is a sign of a functioning democracy.
"Because the tragic events happened in this country, and I think it's a democratic procedure, people are interested because there are many rumours and people believe that you know, that something is hidden from them, and now they are sitting and watching what is happening and most important people in the state who are responsible and were responsible during the war, they are telling them the truth and telling them how they saw everything and what they did," said Alexander Rondeli, head of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies.
The war in August followed months of skirmishes between separatists and Georgian troops. Russia drove the Georgian army out of South Ossetia, which threw off Tbilisi's rule in 1991-92. Russian troops then pushed further into Georgia, saying they needed to prevent further Georgian attacks.
Both Russia and Georgia have accused each other of atrocities during the brief but bitter war.
The BBC recently reported that Georgia may have used indiscriminate force in South Ossetia, which Saakashvili has denied.
Moscow says it will keep a total of 7,600 troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which it has recognised as independent states, to protect them from further Georgia aggression.
The Kremlin said it was morally obliged to enter Georgia to prevent what it called a genocide by Georgian forces.
Western states said its response was disproportionate, but analysts say the European Union's reaction has been tempered because Russia supplies a quarter of Europe's gas and is a major trade and investment partner.
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