"The New York Times"
on November 7 published a detailed article
, based on reports by observers at the OSCE's field office in Tskhinvali, capital of the breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia, that casts serious doubts on successive statements by Georgian officials concerning the events during the night of August 7-8 that precipitated the disastrous conflict with Russia.
The "Times" said that the OSCE reports, while "not fully conclusive," "suggest that Georgia's inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers, and unarmed monitors to harm."
Specifically, the paper quoted OSCE monitors as confirming claims by Ossetian residents of Tskhinvali who subsequently fled to Russia that the town was subjected to intensive artillery fire for a number of hours shortly after Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili declared a unilateral ceasefire
during a live television appearance during the evening of August 7. The monitors also questioned Saakashvili's stated rationale for launching the assault -- that Georgian-populated villages close to Tskhinvali were being subjected to heavy bombardment -- saying that they had heard no exploding ordnance.
Georgian officials have consistently denied that artillery was used against apartment buildings in Tskhinvali. Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria was quoted by the "Times" as dismissing as "a bit peculiar" the OSCE observers' records of the frequency of the bombardment (every 15-20 seconds).
Georgian officials have similarly dismissed as "impossible" the findings, made public earlier this week, of an investigation conducted by Human Rights Watch. That probe established that during the five-day war Georgia used cluster bombs, which are outlawed by over 100 countries worldwide, but not by Georgia. Some of those bombs malfunctioned and exploded in nine Georgian towns and villages, several of them far away from the actual conflict zone.
-- Liz Fuller