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Georgia 'started unjustified war'

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  • Georgia 'started unjustified war'

    14 :29 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:29 UK
    Georgia 'started unjustified war'

    The war in Georgia last year was started by a Georgian attack that was
    not justified by international law, an EU-sponsored report has

    However, the attack followed months of provocation, and both sides
    violated international law, the report said.

    Russia said the report delivered an "unequivocal answer" on the
    question of who started the conflict.

    But Georgia said the investigation proved that Russia had been
    preparing for war all along.

    The report said about 850 people were killed in the August 2008 war,
    and that more than 100,000 fled their homes, about 35,000 of whom are
    still displaced.

    "Continued destruction which came after the ceasefire agreement was
    not justifiable by any means"

    Report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the
    Conflict in Georgia

    EU-sponsored report in full[2.91MB]
    [ i/pdfs/30_09_09_iiffmgc_report.pdf]

    Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need
    to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

    Uncomfortable conclusions for Georgia
    [ 6.stm]

    It was commissioned by the Council of the European Union, and written
    by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, with the help of 30 European
    military, legal and history experts.

    The conflict erupted on 7 August 2008, as Georgia shelled the
    breakaway region of South Ossetia, in an attempt to regain control
    over it. The previous months had seen a series of clashes.

    Russian forces quickly repelled the assault, and pushed further into Georgia.

    The conflict lasted for five days before a ceasefire was agreed.
    Russia pulled back, but built up its military presence in both South
    Ossetia and Abkhazia.

    'Not justifiable'

    "The shelling of Tskhinvali (the South Ossetian capital) by the
    Georgian armed forces during the night of 7 to 8 August 2008 marked
    the beginning of the large-scale armed conflict in Georgia," the
    report says.

    It adds later: "There is the question of whether [this] use of
    force... was justifiable under international law. It was not."

    It also says Georgia's claim that there had been a large-scale Russian
    military incursion into South Ossetia before the outbreak of war could
    not be "sufficiently substantiated", though it said there was evidence
    of a lower-level military build-up.

    The report states that while Russia's initial actions in fighting back
    against attacks on its personnel in South Ossetia were justified, its
    subsequent actions, in pushing far into Georgia proper "went far
    beyond the reasonable limits of defence" and was "in violation of
    international law".

    "Furthermore, continued destruction which came after the ceasefire
    agreement was not justifiable by any means."

    Given the European Union's relations with Russia have improved
    compared to a year ago, the EU may welcome the report itself, but may
    want to distance itself from the content, says the BBC Brussels
    correspondent Dominic Hughes.

    EU countries said in a statement the report was not about apportioning
    blame, but they hoped it could "contribute toward a better
    understanding of the origins and the course of last year's conflict".

    Russia has recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent and
    has vowed to protect them.

    However, Georgia and the vast majority of the international community
    still views them as part of Georgia, and the report's author said
    Russia's recognition "must be considered as being not valid in the
    context of international law, and as violations of Georgia's
    territorial integrity and sovereignty."

    Aid agencies say a refugee crisis continues in the region, with the
    Russian-backed authorities in South Ossetia refusing to allow tens of
    thousands of ethnic Georgians back to their homes in the region.