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Public debates on the war report in Tbilisi

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, November 13
Georgian State Minister on Reintegration Issues Temur Iakobashvili and Georgian political analysts took part in public debates on the Report of the Independent International Fact Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia at the office of the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Tbilisi on November 11.

The Minister underlined that the investigation of the reasons and preconditions of the August Russian-Georgian war conducted by a number of European experts led by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini was the initiative of the Georgian Government and President Saakashvili personally. “We [the Georgian authorities] welcome the report and consider that it mostly reflects the real situation in and before last August,” stated Iakobashvili. The Minister added that the Tagliavini Commission has rejected all Russia’s major allegations against Georgia that were cited by Kremlin as the reasons for the launch of the military operation.

“First of all the report doesn’t say that Georgia started the war. You can read it as many times as you wish, but it doesn’t say that. It also denies that the so-called genocide of Ossetians that Georgian troops are often accused of took place, and even more, it notes that ethnic cleansing really did take place in South Ossetia, but the victims were ethnic Georgians,” stated Iakobashvili. He also noted that the war report doesn’t confirm that Russian peacekeepers were killed by Georgian troops and it denounces the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent republics by Moscow soon after the conflict.

At the debates Iakobashvili also denounced “some parts” of the report, which doesn’t clearly confirm the illegal presence of Russian troops in South Ossetia before the start of the military actions and doesn’t note that the first victims of the conflict, before it grew in intensity, were Georgian peacekeepers.

Conflict analyst and Member of the Georgian Parliament Paata Zakaresihvili noted that despite the fact that Georgia is not directly accused of starting the conflict it is clearly blamed in the report for shooting the “first bullet” which launched the military confrontation. Zakaresihvili underlined that this accusation was used by Russian officials and media as a justification for Russia’s actions in Georgia.

“There were many incidents missing from that report. For example the attempt to assassinate [Tbilisi-backed South Ossetian temporary administration head] Sanakoev in July 2008 was not covered at all,” stated Zakaresihvili, referring to the incident when Sanakoev’s cortege was attacked in South Ossetia several weeks before the start of the conflict. The conflict analyst also stated that there was not enough information on the shelling of Georgian villages by South Ossetian troops before the August 7 night operation. “It [the Ossetian shelling] is presented in such a way that someone may think that it’s unproven or false information,” stated the analyst.

Another Georgian political analyst, Tornike Sharashenidze, noted that the report has a very big “historical” meaning, as it describes the history of the conflict which is much related with general post-Soviet history. He underlined that the conclusions of the report should be used by the Georgian side to confront the anti-Georgian propaganda campaign launched by the Kremlin. “The only war we can win against Russia is an information war, so we shouldn’t miss our chance,” stated Sharashenidze.

Temur Iakobishvili stated that the Georgian side welcomes the report “only 80%.” He also repeated the accusations of the Georgian authorities against some of the analysts who were part of the Tagliavini Commission. “At least three of its analysts were getting salaries directly from Russia’s Gazprom,” stated Iakobashvili.

Speaking to The Messenger after the meeting Temur Iakobashvili also expressed his concern at the overall situation in the Georgian conflict zones, especially underlining the recent detentions of Georgian citizens by Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Georgia considers to be “kidnappings” of its residents. “These kidnappings, together with the explosions in Western Georgia, are links in one chain and are designed to create constant tensions inside Georgia,” noted Iakobashvili, referring to the series of railway blasts in the Samegrelo region, next to breakaway Abkhazia.