(@6:15 – promoted by NLinStPaul)
UPDATE from CBS/AP: Georgia Says Russian Attacks Continue
Fighting reportedly raged well into the night with Georgia’s interior ministry saying early Saturday that warplanes attacked three Georgian military bases and key facilities for shipping oil to the West.
The fighting, which devastated the capital of Tskhinvali, threatened to ignite a wider war between Georgia and Russia, and escalate tensions between Moscow and Washington. Georgia said it was forced to launch the assault because of rebel attacks; the separatists alleged Georgia violated a cease-fire.
“I saw bodies lying on the streets, around ruined buildings, in cars,” said Lyudmila Ostayeva, 50, who had fled with her family to Dzhava, a village near the border with Russia. “It’s impossible to count them now. There is hardly a single building left undamaged.”
The fighting broke out as much of the world’s attention was focused on the start of the Olympic Games and many leaders, including Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Bush, were in Beijing.
6:50 PM PST NOTE & CORRECTION – Rice is NOT in Georgia (that is a story from July)
Russian television says Russian troops are moving into South Ossetia.
Not just troops–heavily armed regular Russian Army forces. You don’t quell riots and unrest with Self-propelled artillery.
And the region is in turmoil.
Russian authorities said several of its peacekeepers died in a Georgian attack in South Ossetia, which borders Russia and has strong ties to its vast northern neighbor, and they vowed not to leave Russian citizens in the territory unprotected.
“The Georgian leadership has launched a dirty adventure,” a statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday. “We will not leave our peacekeepers and Russian citizens unprotected.”
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Georgia started the fighting and warned that Russia would respond to their actions.
“Heavy weapons and artillery have been sent there, and tanks have been added. Deaths and injuries have been reported, including among Russian peacekeepers,” Putin said in comments carried Friday by Russia’s Interfax news agency.
“It’s all very sad and alarming. And, of course, there will be a response.”
Earlier Friday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in a televised statement that Russian aircraft bombed several Georgian villages and other civilian facilities.
We will watch what happens through the day and the weekend–this could end up being the biggest story of the month, Olympics notwithstanding.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Georgia amid an escalating row between Russia, Georgia and the United States.
Russia accused Georgia of bringing the South Caucasus to the brink of armed conflict – comments which both Ms Rice and Nato condemned as “unhelpful”.
See? She said it was “unhelpful.” And that took care of the problem.
On August 2nd, Secretary Rice appeared at the Aspen Music Festival. I’m glad she has had the opportunity to take time out of her busy schedule and attend to important things.
Here’s yesterday’s full mention of the issue in South Ossetia from the US State Department during its daily press briefing:
QUESTION: Gonzo, do you have anything about Ossetia?
MR. [Gonzalo R.] GALLEGOS: South Ossetia?
MR. GALLEGOS: I think so.
QUESTION: President Saakashvili — you know, there were some victims, some fighting last night. And President Saakashvili said that the – he’s – he called several world leaders asking them for their help in maintaining peace. I wanted to know if he called Secretary Rice.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we’re – I don’t believe – I don’t have any further information. I don’t have it that he spoke to Secretary Rice. But we’re in close contact with senior Russian and Georgian officials. We’re urging Moscow to press South Ossetia’s de facto leaders to stop firing. We’re urging Tbilisi to maintain restraint. We’re very concerned about the situation. We call for an immediate end to the violence and for direct talks between the parties.
QUESTION: Do you think the South Ossetian people started the fighting, or who do you think is responsible?
MR. GALLEGOS: We think it’s important that both sides stop firing, that they sit down and they discuss this in a peaceful manner.
As you can see, “Gonzo” is on top of it. Your State Department at work, as fighting breaks out in a region where the warning signs were fairly evident earlier this year.
UPDATE I / WS
Screenshots from video, courtesy of the BBC:
These would appear to be Russia’s main battle tanks, the T-90s:
Russian troops in BMP armored personnel carriers:
From Blue Girl at They gave us a republic…
This situation is developing fast and the United States is in danger of getting sucked into it. Over at the most excellent and essential Newshoggers, I learned that the Georgians are recalling all forces in their control, including the combat brigade that is currently serving in Iraq as part of the Coalition forces.
They are asking for rapid response assistance and could ask the U.S. to airlift the brigade back to Georgia in USAF C-17s through the Tallil Airbase. That would put the U.S. on a hostile footing with yet another oil-producing nation – and this one has military prowess and battle-hardened troops, that make up a force that hasn’t been decimated in the desert.
The Duck of Minerva has more.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned Russia against stoking tension in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Speaking in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, Ms Rice said Russia should help resolve tensions instead of contributing to them.
Six people have been killed in violence in the region in the past week.
Georgia and Russia have also accused each other of flying jets over South Ossetia, violating a ceasefire.
Russian and UN peacekeepers have been deployed in the region since the early 1990s, when violence erupted as separatists sought to break free from Georgian control.
Georgia accuses Russia of backing the separatists and seeking to absorb the territories.
Full scale war–with reports of dead civilians everywhere–has broken out, the US Secretary of State is in the Georgian capital city where Russian planes are no doubt flying near, and no one is covering the story. Russian planes are destroying Georgian airfields as the US Secretary of State sits, most likely, in the well-marked US Embassy.
This report came from the BBC–but Rice is not featured on any US news sites. In the AP story filed and featured on the ABC News.com website, Rice isn’t even featured as dealing with this conflict; she is quoted in a minor blurb, threatening Iran.
UPDATE III/WS – 0203PM
Screenshots of news websites. Rice has all but disappeared. The priorities are astounding.
At least Fox News says the story is “urgent.” The BBC sure doesn’t think China’s Olympic ceremonies are that important, do they?