TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia said on Wednesday an EU-sponsored report on last year’s war with Russia proved Moscow had been preparing for conflict all along.
Spin machines in both countries went into action after publication of the report, which said Georgia had triggered the war with an unjustified assault on its breakaway South Ossetia region on the night of August 7 last year.
The 1,000-page document said Russia’s military response had gone beyond reasonable limits and violated international law, but the findings were particularly damning for Georgia’s pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili.
After Russia welcomed the report as confirmation Georgia had started the war, the Georgian government issued a statement saying “the Commission confirms that Russia invaded Georgia before Georgia took military action.”
In Georgia, where Saakashvili had already faced down months of opposition protests earlier this year, evening news bulletins said the report pinned the blame on Russia.
“No democratic government can survive if, when foreign forces enter its territory, it fails to defend its citizens,” the government statement said. “Georgia acted as any democratic nation would have done - a fact that is impossible for any reasonable observer to deny.”
The commission, led by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, said the Georgian claim of a full-scale invasion could not be “sufficiently substantiated,” but noted indications Russia had provided military equipment and training to separatists before the war.
It said the outbreak of war was “only the culminating point of a long period of increasing tensions, provocations and incidents.”
Georgia said the report confirmed that Russia had been preparing for war all along.
Georgian National Security Council Secretary Eka Tkeshelashvili told a conference call with journalists that Georgia was acting in self-defense when it launched an assault on South Ossetia on August 7.
“The report says very clearly that Russia violated international law, that Russia had no legal justification for invading Georgia and continues to be in breach of international law by the occupation of Georgia’s territories and recognizing regions of Georgia,” Tkeshelashvili said.
“We had a war situation already by that time. I don’t see that anything that the EU said changes that perception, that vision.”
Reporting by Margarita Antidze; writing by Matt Robinson; editing by Philippa Fletcher