By Timothy Heritage
September 30, 2009
An independent report blamed Georgia on Wednesday for starting last year’s five-day war with Russia, but said Moscow’s military response went beyond reasonable limits and violated international law.
The report commissioned by the European Union said both sides had broken international humanitarian laws and found evidence of ethnic cleansing against ethnic Georgians during Russia’s intervention in the rebel province of South Ossetia.
Each side said the report backed up its interpretation of the war. But the findings were particularly critical of U.S. ally Georgia’s conduct under President Mikheil Saakashvili and are likely to further damage his political standing.
They could also deepen Western concerns about his leadership and the stability of the former Soviet republic which have set back its hopes of joining NATO and the EU and shaken confidence in oil and gas routes running through the South Caucasus.
“In the Mission’s view, it was Georgia which triggered off the war when it attacked Tskhinvali (in South Ossetia) with heavy artillery on the night of 7 to 8 August 2008,” said Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, who led the investigation.
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