Sunday, August 10, 2008

Escalating Tribal Violence....,

In this morning's Guardian; Russian bombers and artillery yesterday widened their attack against Georgian forces with strikes against towns and military bases across the country in a dangerous escalation of the two-day-old war. Moscow appeared determined to dismantle Georgia's military capability in punishment for its rival's brutal attempt to regain control of the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia.

Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, last night insisted that its actions were 'legitimate' and called on Georgia to end its 'aggression' against the separatist province.

As the civilian casualties escalated on both sides, Georgia's military adventure seemed to be unravelling. President Mikheil Saakashvili demanded a ceasefire from Russia and implored the West to intervene to help him. Georgia's difficulties deepened further as separatists in a second pro-Russian breakaway Georgian republic - Abkhazia - joined the conflict, attacking Georgian forces in the contested upper Kodori Gorge.

Despite Saakashvili's call for a ceasefire - and the announcement that a combined EU, UN and US delegation was flying to Georgia to broker a cessation of hostilities - Russia insisted there would be no ceasefire until all Georgian troops had withdrawn from South Ossetia, which declared its independence from Georgia after a war in 1992.

'The first thing needed is to ... make the Georgians return to their positions and re-establish the status quo we had before,' Russia's Nato ambassador, Dmitry Rogozin, said in Brussels. He said that there could be 'no consultations' until that precondition had been met.

Rogozin said Russian troops had entered South Ossetia to protect Russian peacekeepers and civilians. He added - unconvincingly given the air raids - that Russia was not conducting any military operation against Georgia outside the conflict zone in South Ossetia.

The latest moves come amid concern over the civilian death toll on both sides, which appeared to have reached 2,000 yesterday. The first horrific images began emerging from the Georgian town of Gori, bombed yesterday by Russian jets, where up to 60 civilians died when bombs landed on two apartment blocks in a town that Georgia has been using as a military staging post for its assault on South Ossetia.