Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.
Instead, the accounts 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.
The accounts are neither fully conclusive nor broad enough to settle the many lingering disputes over blame in a war that hardened relations between the Kremlin and the West. But they raise questions about the accuracy and honesty of Georgia’s insistence that its shelling of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, was a precise operation. Georgia has variously defended the shelling as necessary to stop heavy Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages, bring order to the region or counter a Russian invasion.
Call into question indeed. Chivers is not pushing any agenda here, he is just reporting what information he can get when he can get it—and unlike way too many journalists, not treating the information he has as conclusive and case-settling. Even so, documenting the growing divergence between the Georgian portrayal of the war and what independent observers on the ground have seen is a laborious process—and Chivers deserves thanks for continuing to do the work needed to get it all into the open.