by Jerome a Paris
Fri Aug 8th, 2008 at 06:15:25 AM EST
See the update at the bottom of the post on the front page: Russian tanks appear to have crossed the border
Russians accused of 'bombing' Georgia as violence escalates
TBLISI, Georgia (CNN) -- As Georgian troops launched a major military offensive Friday to regain control over the breakaway province of South Ossetia, the former Soviet republic's president accused Russia of bombing its territory.
According to the Associated Press, Mikhail Saakashvili said in a televised statement that Russian aircraft bombed several Georgian villages and other civilian facilities Friday morning.
He added that there were injuries and damage to buildings. "A full-scale aggression has been launched against Georgia," he said.
The Wall Street Journal has more detail and background, and it's hard to know who's to blame for the new round of fighting, but what's certain is that Saakashvili is in full belligerent mode, Russia is playing the soothing, slightly mocking diplomat (but it's hard to know what they're doing on the ground) and the US is deeply embarrassed and has so far, thankfully, refused to back the Georgian attemtps to escalate the conflict.
But it's hard to escape the notion that Georgia is keen on (i) fighting with Russia, and (ii) dragging the West in that confrontation with Russia; and it's equally hard to think that this could be a good way under any meanigful definition of "good." Will common sense prevail?
Update via bne:
Russian tanks cross into South Ossetia
Russia’s state-owned Channel 1 is showing pictures of Russian tanks and troops crossing over Russia’s southern border into South Ossetia in a dramatic escalation of the conflict in the afternoon of Friday August 8.
Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has just finished speaking to CNN in a live interview. He claims he is reacting to provocation by Russia. He said he was in central Georgia earlier today and personally saw the after affects of two 500kg bombs dropped into the market place of a small town in the country side.
Saakashvili claims that the Russians have egregiously timed the provocation to coincide with the opening of the Olympics in the hope that the world will be distracted by the games and pay little attention to the events unfolding in this geopolitical backwater.
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev also made his first statements an hour ago and took a hard line.
“We will not tolerate the death of our citizens going unpunished. Those guilty will receive due punishment,” Interfax reports the president saying.
Georgian media is also reporting that it has shot down two Russian planes, in confirmed reports.
This is increasingly looking like a "hot" war.
On Russia's mocking attitude:
Russia's government blamed Georgia for the fighting, and called on Tbilisi to commit itself to peaceful resolution of the conflict. "The Georgian leadership should come to their senses and return to civilized ways of resolving difficult issues," Russian Foreign Ministry Boris Malakhov said Friday.
On US diplomacy:
At the request of Russia, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency session in New York but failed to reach consensus early Friday on a Russian-drafted statement. The council concluded it was at a stalemate after the U.S., Britain and some other members backed the Georgians in rejecting a phrase in the three-sentence draft statement that would have required both sides "to renounce the use of force," council diplomats said.
"We think that this is a very serious error of judgment and political blunder," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkins said of the council members' disagreement. "I hope that the Georgian side will reconsider its reckless actions in the area of the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict."
I wonder who the 'other members" of the Security Council joined the US and UK, but I expect it's not the Europeans, otherwise that would have been explicitly mentioned...