Russian Invasion in August 2008 (Version 2013 - MFA Panjikidze) >>

ON THE EVE OF WAR:

The Sequence of events on august 7, 2008

* Timing is approximate

00:15 Separatists begin attacking the villages of Eredvi, Prisi, and Vanati, with artillery, including

mortars and grenade launchers. Simultaneously, the separatists attack the Sarabuki

Heights, where Georgian peacekeepers are stationed. Three Georgian peacekeepers are

wounded during the Sarabuki attack. The fighting in this area continues until

approximately 10:00.

In a morning interview with Russian TV (NTV) and news agencies, South Ossetian separatist leader

Eduard Kokoity declares that if the Georgian government does not withdraw its forces from the

region, he will start “to wipe them out.” The Georgian military forces to which he refers are

peacekeepers legally present in the South Ossetia conflict zone.

11:00 Separatists resume shelling the Georgian villages of Nuli, Avnevi, Vanati, from the village

of Khetagurovo. Three Georgian servicemen are injured; a Georgian police return fire

towards the village where the firing comes from, Khetagurovo, killing two separatists and

wounding two others.

14:00 The Georgian peacekeeping checkpoint in Avnevi is shelled, including again from

Khetagurovo, killing two Georgian peacekeepers and eight civilians. Phone conversation

interception of separatist militia confirming the death of Georgian military servicemen

and civilians is available (Sigint)*.

14:30 Georgian armed forces receive intelligence that Russian troops that had still not

redeployed from July’s North Caucasian military exercises have been put on high alert

and have received orders to prepare to march towards the Georgian border.

Around the same time Georgian forces mobilize tanks, 122mm howitzers, and 203mm

self‐propelled artillery in the direction of the administrative border of South Ossetia, in

an effort to deter further separatist attacks, and to be in a position to defend the

Russian‐Georgian border in the event that Russia invades.

16:00 Georgian Special Envoy Temur Yakobashvili visits the conflict zone on August 7 to meet

with representatives of the separatists. The Special Envoy of Russia’s Foreign Ministry,

Yuri Popov fails to arrive to Tskinvali, as previously agreed together with Minister

Yakobashvili, citing a flat tire and a flat spare tire. When he finally reaches Tskhinvali,

Popov meets Kokoity, and afterwards concedes that he cannot convince the separatists

to hold urgent talks with Minister Yakobashvili.

Minister Yakobashvili meets General Marat Kulakhmetov, who states that he cannot

contact the separatist leader Kokoity, and that Russian peacekeepers cannot stop the

separatist attacks. Kulakhmetov admits that the separatists are shooting from the

vicinity of Russian peacekeeping posts. During this meeting General Kulakhmetov

suggests to Minister Yakobashvili that the Government of Georgia declare a unilateral

Russian Aggression of Georgia

ceasefire.

17:00 Minister Yakobashvili calls General Kulakhmetov to inform him of the Government of

Georgia’s decision to implement a unilateral ceasefire.

Georgian peacekeepers unilaterally cease fire to defuse tensions.

18:40 After return to Tbilisi Minister Yakobashvili holds a press conference to discuss the results

of his visit to Tskhinvali, and announces the decision of the Government to call for and

implement a unilateral ceasefire.

19:10 In a televised address, President Saakashvili declares a unilateral ceasefire and calls for

the separatists to respect it and resume talks.

20:30 A Government controlled village of Avnevi comes under separatist mortar fire from

Khetagurov.

The chairman of the separatist Security Council, Anatoly Barankevich (a long‐standing Russian military

officer, who served for four years as First Deputy of the Military Commissioner in Chechnya), tells

the local TV that armed groups of Cossacks are headed towards South Ossetia to “fight against

Georgian forces”.

22:30 Separatists fire at the Government ‐controlled village of Prisi and Tamarsheni, from

Tskhinvali and the mountain of Tliakana, wounding civilians

23:30 Separatists open heavy fire on all Georgian peacekeepers’ positions around Tskhinvali,

including the villages of Tamarasheni and Kurta; the Kurta police station is destroyed.

23:30 Georgian Government receive multiple human intelligence reports that about 150

armored vehicles and trucks with Russian soldiers are approaching the Roki Tunnel

from Russia and moving towards Tskhinvali. Multiple signal intercepts of separatist

security and military officials at around 3am and later confirm that columns are stretched

from Roki to Java. (Sigint)*.

23:50 For the first time, and in response to the entry of Russian armed forces into Georgian

sovereign territory, Georgian armed forces enter military action—using armor, including

tanks, 122mm howitzers, and 203mm self‐propelled artillery system Dana.

00:45

August 8

Georgian forces fire artillery rounds at the invading Russian forces on roads being used by

a Russian column already moving south of the Roki Tunnel.

* Here and below signal interceptions are cited. They are available upon request.

Russian Invasion in August 2008 (Version 2013 - MFA Panjikidze) >>

August 8 to present

Outside Tskhinvali

On August 8, after advancing into the conflict zone of South Ossetia, Georgian armed forces seized

control of a significant number of villages around Tskhinvali during a five‐hour period (Tsinagara,

Orchosani, Didmukha, Muguti, Gromi, Dmenisi, and Artsevi, ).

During the fighting, Georgian armed forces encountered substantial Russian forces and separatist

militias on the Zara bypass road leading to the northeastern part of Tskhinvali through the village of

Khetagurovo. Enemy positions in Khetagurovo opened fire with advanced artillery systems, including

armored vehicles and self‐propelled howitzers. Georgian artillery shelled those positions. Georgian

artillery and aviation conducted a targeted attacks on the Gupta bridge, 25 km south of the Roki tunnel

and the point where the narrow alpine valley leading south from Roki opens up to the east and west, in

an attempt to stop the advancing Russian armoured columns. The attempt was only partially sucessul. It

slowed down the Russian advance but did not stop it. Russian forces quickly repaired the bridge and

moved damaged vehicles off the road, refueled at Java and arrived in Tskhinvali through the villages of

Kurta and Tamarasheni soon after.

Around and within Tskhinvali

Tskhinvali, a small regional town functioning as the South Ossete capital, lies in a valley about 75 km

west by north west of Tbilisi. The satellite pictures at annex, prepared by the UN’s UNOSAT department,

gives an idea of the layout of the city and of the damage its and its surroundings suffered during the

battle and in the subsequent Ossete effort to raze nearby Georgian settlements to the ground.

Before separatist president Kokoity ordered the evacuation of civilians in early August, Tskhinvali’s

population was estimated at about 7,000 people by local intelligence estimates and on‐the‐ground

reports. Following the evacuation on August 3‐5, the number of residents decreased dramatically. Most

women and children left the town, along with old men; military‐aged men joined the South Ossete

militias.

Soon after midnight on 8 August, a number of Georgian positions came under attack from points on the

outskirts of town, including from Verkhny Gorodok, the base of the Russian “peacekeeper” contingent

located south by southwest of Tskhinvali. The base is away from residential areas.

Georgian forces gave repeated warnings to the Russian “peacekeeping” forces not to allow their

positions to be used for attacks. When this was ignored, the Georgian army attacked the base using

GRAD multiple‐rocket systems. This was the first position in the immediate vicinity of Tskhinvali that

Georgian forces targeted.

Soon thereafter, Georgian forces used GRADs to target stockpiles of munitions and fuel in a warehouse

area west of the town and military barracks in the northwest. Both are located away from residential

areas.

At approximately 11:00, August 8, once Georgian forces had destroyed the artillery positions in

Khetagurovo and Verkhny Gorodok and secured the heights around Tskhinvali, they entered the town.

These forces came under fire from Ossete or Russian positions from within the main government

buildings, located in the center of Tskhinvali. Georgian forces returned fire using 152mm self‐propelled

Dana howitzers. Unlike GRAD multiple rocket launchers, these howitzers allow the precise targeting of

specific locations. Fire was returned against the separatist ministries of defense, interior, FSB, and the

main government buildings. The results of this defensive firing can clearly be seen on the UNOSAT map,

which shows a concentration of damaged buildings in a small area of the town centre.

The Russian air force started attacking Georgian positions inside and around Tskhinvali as soon as

Georgian forces began advancing on the town. This barrage continued until late in the day on August 10.

The bombing was inaccurate; its results can be seen in the wide but relatively low‐density pattern of

damabuildings within Tskhinvali on the UNOSAT map.

At 14:00, Georgian forces took control of most of Tskhinvali.

At 15:00, Georgian forces declared a 3‐hour ceasefire to establish a humanitarian corridor. The aim was

to allow the few remaining civilians within Tskhinvali, Georgian villagers trapped in surrounding villagers,

and any separatists who chose to lay down arms to evacuate. This was ignored by the enemy. Intensive

enemy attacks continued for the rest of the day and during August 9th.

Georgian forces began a phased withdrawal from Tskhinvali during the evening of August 9,

repositioning themselves south of the town.

Allegations of Georgian ethnic cleansing of Ossetian civilians

Russian propaganda whipped up a frenzy of anti‐Georgian sentiment in South Ossetia and Russia by

accusing Georgian forces of genocide and crimes against humanity.

During the fighting, it was impossible for impartial observers to verify these accusations. But once

fighting stopped, some human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, gained access. Their

conclusion is that there was no credible evidence of human rights abuse by Georgian forces or civilians

during the two days that Georgian forces were in control of separatist areas.

The ethnic Ossetian population in the conflict zone was not displaced. Civilians were not arrested,

looted, intentionally killed or otherwise abused. The only Ossetian village that sustained severe damage

was Khetagurovo, which was used as an artillery position by separatist forces. Human Rights Watch

confirmed that, with the exception of those civilians who died in the crossfire, there was no abuse of

Ossetian civilians there for the two days the village was under Georgian control.

The sequence of claims and corrections is summarized here:

8 August: The Russian Ministry of Defense, the Russian media and senior Russian officials including

President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin claim that Georgian forces “have killed 2,000 civilians”

in Tskhinvali.

11 August: A Human Rights Watch representative says that Russia purposely exaggerated casualty

figures in Tskhinvali, leading to revenge killings against the ethnic Georgian population (Annex 4).

21 August: The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office reports much lower casualty figures in South

Ossetia, setting the total at 133. There is a strong likelihood that the majority of these casualties were

separatist militiamen, as local officials frequently refer to any non‐Russian servicemen as civilians

(Annexes 5 and 6).

Attacks and ethnic cleansing of Georgians within and outside the conflict zone

Beginning on August 8 at 09:45, the Russian air force bombed a series of civilian and military targets

across Georgia, outside the zone of conflict in South Ossetia, damaging infrastructure and causing

significant civilian casualties. These targets include, but are not limited to:

1. Gori and surrounding villages

2. Marneuli airfield, central Georgia

3. Vaziani airfield, central Georgia

4. Kopitnari airfield, western Georgia

5. Oni (civilian areas), western Georgia

6. Poti port, western Georgia

7. Baku‐Supsa oil pipeline, central Georgia

8. Anaklia, western Georgia

9. Zugdidi, western Georgia

10. Upper Abkhazia/Kodori Gorge, Abkhazia region

11. Tbilisi (aircraft factory and civilian radar facility in Tbilisi airport)

12. Khelvachauri, Ajara region

13. Shiraki, eastern Georgia

14. Senaki airport and military base, western Georgia

15. Kaspi, central Georgia

16. Khashuri district villages, central Georgia

17. Borjomi National Park, central Georgia.

The targeting of civilian infrastructure by Russian regular troops has been widely documented by

observers and journalists alike.

The Russian Federation’s nationwide bombing campaign included the use of SS‐26 “Iskander” shortrange

tactical missiles. These were seemingly used against the Baku‐Supsa oil pipeline, but caused to

damage to the pipeline.

Russian forces also used short‐range SS‐21 “Tochka‐U” ballistic missiles on the cities of Poti and Gori. In

the villages around the town of Gori, Russian forces used “Hurricane” missiles. Cluster bombs were used

extensively in Gori and nearby villages, including Ruisi and Shindisi.

On August 10, the Russian navy landed 4,000 infantry in the port city of Ochamchire and launched an

unprovoked attack on the Kodori Gorge (Upper Abkhazia) using artillery and massive air bombing. Until

then, there had been no hostilities in Abkhazia, Georgia. This attack began after Georgian forces left the

nearest military base, in Senaki, to move east and prepare to defend Tbilisi.

On August 12, Russian forces invaded the western Georgian city of Zugdidi and the country’s main

commercial port of Poti.

Reports from separatists, confirmed by journalists, start speaking of over 130 Georgian civilians,

including children, kept as hostages in the prison of Tskhinvali. Hostages were reportedly kept in one

small room, without sanitation, food or water.

At the time of this writing (29 August), the ethnic cleansing of Georgian villages across Upper Abkhazia,

South Ossetia, and in villages outside the conflict zone north of Gori is largely complete. This followed a

familiar, although horrific, pattern: paramilitary groups acting under Russian control, and in many cases

under the eyes of Russian commanders, enter a village, kill some Georgian civilians, forcing the rest to

flee. Houses are then looted of anything portable before being set afire. Any remaining civilians – old

people, mostly – hide in the woods and return at night to scavenge for food. Eventually, when these are

discovered, they too are killed, taken hostage or forced to flee. This pattern can be seen in another

UNOSAT map, which documents burning in all the Georgian villages in the Tskhinvali valley; and in the

Tskhinvali damage map already referred, which shows that the heaviest concentration of damage in the

area is at Tamarasheni, Tskhinvali’s Georgian northen suburb.

Mong others, the villages of Eredvi, Avnevi, Nuli, Kurta, Achabeti, Tamarasheni, Kekhvi and Disevi have

been destroyed.

The latest reports by journalists and observers speak of the villages of Kurta and Tamarasheni being

flattened by bulldozers. Unconfirmed reports speak of the land on which these villages once stood being

turned into an airport and its runway.

As of the time of this writing, Russian troops continue to occupy significant parts of Georgia, manning

checkpoints in the west (notably around Poti) and effectively controlling the ethnically cleared Georgian

areas north of Gori.