Saturday, August 9, 2008
Further updates as of 2100 EST.
From the NY Times:
Other Western officials monitored the movements with alarm. “The record is crystal clear,” said a Western official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Russia has launched a full-scale military operation, on air, land and sea. We have entered a totally new realm — politically, legally and diplomatically.”
Russia appeared to be opening a second front in Abkhazia, to the west of South Ossetia, and to be aiming to drive Georgian troops from the Kodori Gorge, a small mountainous area in Abkhazia that Georgia reclaimed by force in 2006. Georgian officials said 12 Russian jets were bombing the area, shortly after a Western official said United Nations peacekeepers had withdrawn from the area at the request of Abkhazia’s de facto government.
Russia also notified Western governments that it was moving ships of its Black Sea fleet to Ochamchire, a port on the Abkhaz coast. Georgian officials said they expected Russian troops to land there.
Mr. Putin made clear that Russia now viewed Georgian claims over the breakaway regions to be invalid, and that Russia had no intention of withdrawing. “There is almost no way we can imagine a return to the status quo,” he said in remarks on Russian state television.
Mr. Saakashivili, the Georgian president, said Russia’s oil riches and desire to assert economic leverage over Europe and the West had emboldened Kremlin country to attack. Georgia is a transit country for oil and natural gas exports from the former Soviet Union that threatens Russia’s near monopoly.
With Russia’s Black Sea fleet, warplanes and tanks bearing down on the small, mountainous country, Georgian officials acknowledged they were taken by surprise by the intensity of the Russian response.
But Russia, too, found itself facing resistance. Russia acknowledged that Georgian forces had shot down two Russian warplanes, while Mr. Lomaya said the Georgians had destroyed 10 Russian jets.
In Gori, people cheered as a Russian pilot ejected from an airplane that was shot down. Georgian television later showed a pilot’s bloody helmet and said a pilot had been captured.
Russian strategic bombers were seen over Georgia for the first time in the three-day conflict. Georgian tanks attacked the lone road linking South Ossetia to Russia, trying to cut off Russian supply routes. But Russia continued to flow forces into Georgia, and appeared on track to at least double the number of troops there. Georgian officials said at least 2,500 Russian troops were already in South Ossetia.
Russia's use of strategic bombers and ballistic missiles against Georgia's civilians outside of the South Ossetian conflict is "far disproportionate" to Georgia's alleged attack on Russian peacekeepers, a senior U.S. official said Saturday.
The official was not authorized to speak on the record due to the sensitive nature of the diplomacy.
Russia's use of its potent air weaponry signals a "severe" and "dangerous escalation in the crisis," the official said.
"For the life of me, I can't image that being a proportionate response to the charge that Georgia has attacked Russian peacekeepers," the official said. "It's hard for us to understand what Russia's plan is here."
The official said Russia is probably trying to destabilize Georgia politically to kill its chances of joining NATO.
Mr Putin flew to the Russian city of Vladikavkaz, close to the border with South Ossetia, where he met those who had fled the violence.
ARMED FORCES COMPARED
Total personnel: 26,900
Main battle tanks (T-72): 82
Armoured personnel carriers: 139
Combat aircraft (Su-25): Seven
Heavy artillery pieces (including Grad rocket launchers): 95
Total personnel: 641,000
Main battle tanks (various): 6,717
Armoured personnel carriers: 6,388
Combat aircraft (various): 1,206
Heavy artillery pieces (various): 7,550
Source: Jane's Sentinel Country Risk Assessments
Mr Putin said Georgia was committing "complete genocide".
He said the territorial integrity of Georgia had "suffered a fatal blow", suggesting that it was unlikely that South Ossetia would re-integrate with the rest of Georgia after the conflict.
He said the conflict had created at least 34,000 refugees.
This figure wildly conflicts with that cited by the UN refugee agency, which it says is based on information supplied by both sides.
The UN estimates that about 2,400 people have fled South Ossetia to other parts of Georgia while between 4,000 and 5,000 have crossed the border into Russia.
More to follow.
God Bless America
Photo is from the BBC Article. Sphere: Related Content