"First, Russia had massed hundreds of tanks and thousands of soldiers on the border between Russian and Georgia in the area of South Ossetia. We had firm intelligence that they were crossing into Georgia, a fact later confirmed by telephone intercepts verified by the New York Times and others -- and a fact never substantially denied by Russia. (We had alerted the international community both about the military deployment and an inflow of mercenaries early on Aug. 7.)
Second, for a week Russian forces and their proxies engaged in a series of deadly provocations, shelling Georgian villages that were under my government's control -- with much of the artillery located in Tskhinvali, often within sites controlled by Russian peacekeepers."
The who-started-it question has been debated more fervently on the editorial pages and in the blogosphere in recent weeks, sparked by a report in "The New York Times" that Georgia used indiscriminate force and attacked Tskhinvali unprovoked.
A story we ran on November 14 looked at the claims of ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia, who say pro-Moscow separatist forces had been shelling their villages nonstop since the beginning of August.
Anne Applebaum, in a recent column, wrapped it all up rather nicely:
"Unfortunately, neither cartoon version of events is accurate, and no new "investigations" or "revelations" about the August war will make them so. Saakashvili's attack on South Ossetia was a disaster, made worse by the bizarrely boastful celebrations he conducted afterward. The outrageous Russian response was also horrific, both for the Georgians and for Russia, whose neighbors (and investors) now know exactly what to expect from the Medvedev-Putin regime."
-- Luke Allnutt