The Russian government today released a timeline of events leading up to their invasion of the small country of Georgia to their south.
The Kremlin maintains that their military actions starting on Aug. 8 were only a response to Georgian aggression in the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia.
The timeline below was sent to reporters by the D.C. PR firm of Ketchum, Inc.
Events in the Zone of the Georgian-South Ossetian Conflict on the Eve of and Immediately After the Georgian Aggression
This timeline describes the precise sequence of events leading up to the tragic incursion of Georgian armed forces in South Ossetia.
The situation deteriorated sharply on the evening of August 1. The city of Tskhinvali and a number of other settlements came under massive fire from the Georgian side. A battle involving the use of small arms, grenade launchers and mortar fire lasted for several hours in the conflict zone. The first fatalities and significant damage occurred. South Ossetia began to evacuate its residents into North Ossetia, and in the first two days after the bombardment, 2,500 residents abandoned their homes.
On a visit to South Ossetia on August 2, the Georgian State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili announced that Georgian authorities saw no alternative to direct negotiations between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, and were ready to open the negotiations without any preconditions. The announcement followed a number of meetings with representatives of the OSCE observers’ missions, the chief of staff of the peacekeeping operation of the Georgian Ministry of Defence, General Mamuka Kurashvili, and with the commander of the Combined Peacekeeping Forces (CPF) and General of the Russian Army, Marat Kulakhmetov. Mr. Yakobashvili promised that the Georgian authorities would take all measures to ensure a political settlement of the situation.
On August 3, the Georgian side continued to send troops toward the border of South Ossetia. An artillery column comprised of one battalion of D-30 artillery complexes and two mortar batteries, which represent an integral part of the fourth mechanised infantry of the Georgian Ministry of Defence, moved towards Tskhinvali from the direction of the Georgian military base in Gori.
On August 6, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Special Ambassador for South Ossetia Yuri F. Popov flew to the region. His efforts prepared the ground for a meeting in Tskhinvali between Mr. Yakobashvili and the Deputy Prime Minister of South Ossetia, Boris Chochiyev. This meeting, however, was aborted in light of the bombardments of Tskhinvali and other settlements that resumed on August 7.
The prospects of organising a trilateral meeting were once against discussed at a meeting between Mr. Popov and Mr. Yakobashvili, which was held in Tbilisi on August 7. Afterwards, the meeting’s participants left separately for South Ossetia. After meeting residents of Georgian villages, Mr. Yakobashvili returned to Tbilisi, while Mr. Popov remained on the ground with the Combined Peacekeepers’ Staff.
In the meantime, Georgia stationed 27 “grad” installations near Gori. An entire column of military equipment was moved in the direction of South Ossetia. Twenty trucks with soldiers, 20 Toyota jeeps armed with mounted machine-guns, three armored infantry fighting vehicles, three salvo fire installations, and three field artillery guns were moved from Kutaisi to Gori.
During the afternoon of August 7, Tskhinvali and its surroundings sustained large-calibre artillery fire coming from the direction of the Georgian villages of Nikozi and Ergneti.
At 15:45 on August 7, military observers from Georgia left the Combined Peacekeepers’ Staff and their observation posts. That same evening, Mr. Yakobashvili declared that the Georgian side was temporarily and unilaterally ceasing fire in the conflict zone. According to Mr. Yakobashvili, the Georgian side wished to demonstrate to the Tskhinvali authorities “the complete insanity of armed confrontation.” Mr. Yakobashvili announced that he intended to go to the conflict zone together with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Special Ambassador Yuri Popov to try and sit down at the negotiating table.
At 19:40 of August 7, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the people of Georgia. He declared that on that evening, he had issued an order to all Georgian armed units not to open return fire in the Tskhinvali region conflict zone. “I would like to address those who are now shooting at Georgian policemen. I want to say with full responsibility that several hours ago, I reached a very difficult decision - not to respond with fire,” the Georgian President emphasized.
At 22:35 on August 7, in other words three hours after Mr. Saakashvili’s statement, Georgia launched an offensive against South Ossetia.
At 23:15, the first fighting and bombardments involving grenade launchers and mortar fire began.
At 23:45 the first salvo mortar fire began.
At 00:20 on August 8, the cannon artillery joined in.
At 01:20, against the backdrop of roaring gunfire, the movement of Georgian forces toward the eastern part of Tskhinvali began.
On the night of August 7-8, the commander of the peacekeeping operations at the Joint Staff of the Georgian Ministry of Defence, General Kurashvili, told Rustavi-2 television station that the Georgian side had reached a decision to restore constitutional order in the conflict zone.
In the morning of August 8, Georgia’s air force delivered a strike against South Ossetia. Five Su-25 ground-attack aircraft delivered their bomb loads in the vicinity of the settlement of Tkverneti. Moreover, a column with humanitarian assistance for South Ossetia sustained a bombing attack.
Also that morning, Mr. Yakobashvili declared that Tskhinvali was “almost surrounded by Georgian units. But we do not want to inflict damages and casualties, and for this reason, we are once again extending an offer to the separatist leaders to assume direct negotiations concerning a halt to the fire and a de-escalation of the situation in the conflict zone”.
As a result of the nighttime bombardment from the Georgian side, a number of buildings on the territory of the staff of Russian peacekeepers in Tskhinvali were damaged. The parliament building of the Republic of South Ossetia was burned down, a government-building complex was destroyed, and high-rise residential buildings and other structure in the center of the city caught fire. A column of Georgian tanks and infantry forces closed in on Tskhinvali.
By midday on August 8, Georgian forces, despite resistance from South Ossetian units, took Tskhinvali and eight South Ossetian villages under their control.
In connection with the emergence of reports that Russian peacekeepers were targeted in the Georgian attack, the Georgian Deputy Minister of Internal Affair E. Zguladze declared at a briefing in Tbilisi that the Georgian forces were taking “every measure to protect peacekeepers from coming under fire.” The commander of the Combined Peacekeeping Forces (CPF) in the zone of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, Mr. Kulakhmetov, considered this a blatant lie and an attempt by the Georgian side to deceive world opinion. Fifteen Russian peacekeepers died while fulfilling their duty.
Amid on-going direct threats to the lives of Russian citizens and peacekeepers in South Ossetia and in accordance with the right to self-defence, on the afternoon of August 8, Russia sent additional forces to South Ossetia to support Russian peacekeepers and protect civilians.
More than two thousand people, mostly South Ossetians, were killed in the course of four days of tragic events. Several thousand people, including more than 100 Russian servicemen from the CPF, suffered injuries. More than 30,000 residents of South Ossetia were forced to flee their homes. The events bore the clear traits of the genocide of the South Ossetian people.