Gordon Hahn: Georgia’s Propaganda War

03.09.08

Categorie: Reporters, Russia |

[This post is a supporting documentation for my reporting on the recent South Ossetia war at Wired.com's DANGER ROOM blog. See parts one and two.]

Dr. Gordon M. Hahn: Senior Researcher, Monterey Terrorism Research and Education Program and Visiting Assistant Professor, Graduate School of International Policy Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, California; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group; and Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View ­ Russia Media Watch, www.russiaotherpointsofview.com. Dr Hahn is author of two well-received books, Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007) and Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), and numerous articles on Russian politics.

GEORGIA’S PROPAGANDA WAR

By Gordon M. Hahn

The five-day Georgian-Russian saw Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (pictured) and other Georgian officials waging an aggressive propaganda campaign and, in many ways, a disinformation war in the Western mass media. This media offensive was the result either of a carefully planned disinformation war or a rush by Western governments, mainstream media, and think tanks to get the Georgians’ side of the story and their side only. Either way, the Georgians were able to wage an effective and constant barrage of propaganda and disinformation against the Russians.

In some 40 appearances in the Western media and at Western think tanks, Georgian President Mikheil Saakasahvili and his ministers made numerous statements in their effort to convince the West that it was obliged to defend Tbilisi from Russia’s incursion. The following is a review of Georgia’s official version of events and a comparison of their claims with the facts as we know them as of late August and early September 2008.

RUSSIAN PLANNED WAR AND ATTACKED FIRST

CLAIM: President Saakashvili and other Georgian officials repeatedly accused Russia of undertaking a “well-planned invasion” of Georgia and attacked first in order to sieze the country and remove him from power. [Mikheil Saakashvili, "Russia's War Is The West's Challenge," Washington Post, August 14, 2008 and CNN interview with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, CNN News, 8 August 2008, www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2008/08/08/intv.saakashvili.cnn?iref=videosearch.]

FACT: Both sides planned for war as a contingency. They both held maneuvers in late July, used them to move forces and equipment near (Russian) or into (Georgian) the conflict zone, and ratcheted up the confrontation from the usual summertime tit-for-tat sniper and small arms fire to mortars to light and then heavy artillery until approximately midnight August 7-8 when Georgian forces opened up a massive heavy artillery barrage and sent at least two battalions into South Ossetia’s capitol of Tskhinvali. Russian forces were ready and responded with a full-scale invasion and air war.

Georgian military officials have inadvertently revealed that they had brought heavy artillery into the conflict zone very early on. For instance artillery brigade commanders told a Georgian newspaper that Georgian artillery used in the zone on August 7 included: “(a)t least 300 gun barrels of Georgian artillery.” Among these were: “the 203-mm Pion systems, the 160-mm Israeli-made GRADLAR multiple rocket launchers, the 152-mm Akatsiya, Giatsint and Dana self-propelled guns, the 122-mm Grad and RM-70 multiple rocket launchers, as well as the D-30 and Msta howitzers of the infantry brigades.” ["Georgian artillery inflicted 'heavy losses' on Russians," BBC Monitoring, August 25, 2008 translating Georgian weekly Kviris Palitra, August 25, 2008.]

It takes many days if not weeks to bring in the kind of heavy artillery about which the commander is talking into or near the conflict zone through the mountainous terrain around South Ossetia from Georgian army bases in Tbilisi, Senaki or Gori.

THE RUSSIANS BROKE SAAKASHVILI’S AUGUST 7 CEASEFIRE

CLAIM: Saakashvili claims the Russians broke his late afternoon August 7 ceasefire.

FACT: In fact, no cessation of fire occurred; both sides continued with more sporadic fire. Moreover, as Saakashvili was declaring his ceasefire, Georgia began moving reinforcements to the conflict zone to back up the two battalions and materiel’ they had already positioned there in violation of the ceasefire agreement. [Peter Finn "A Two-Sided Descent into Full-Scale War," The Washington Post, August 17, 2008, p. A1.]

GEORGIAN FORCES OCCUPIED ALMOST ALL OF SOUTH OSSETIA

CLAIM: As Russian and Ossetian forces engaged the Georgian army on August 8, Saakashvili claimed: “The Georgian government’s forces, according to information as of 21:00, completely control the entire territory of South Ossetia except the highland settlements of Dzhava.” ["Saakashvili: voiska Gruzii kontroliruet vsyu territoriyu Yuzhnoi Ossetii," KavkazMemo.ru, 8 August 2008, www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/printnews/news/id/1226844.html.]

FACT: In fact, Georgian troops never even controlled all of Tskhinvali and began withdrawing from there at 20:30 and only held a slice of the city in the south as Russian troops began to enter it. [Timeline from the Georgian Foreign Ministry, accessed 28 August 2008, www.mfa.gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=461&info_id=7484p]

CONTACTS WITH RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES

CLAIM: In his August 14 Washington Post article, Saakashvili stated: “Our repeated attempts to contact senior Russian leaders were rebuffed. Russia’s foreign ministry even denied receiving our notice of cease-fire hours after it was officially — and very publicly — delivered. This was just one of many cynical ploys to deceive the world and justify further attacks.” [Saakashvili, "Russia's War Is The West's Challenge"]

The Georgian president was reiterating a claim he made in his televised address to the Georgian people on August 7, when he Saakashvili stated that the Georgian authorities had not been in touch with Vladimir Putin or other Russian authorities “for days.” [CNN interview with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, CNN News, 8 August 2008, www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2008/08/08/intv.saakashvili.cnn?iref=videosearch.]

FACT: On the next day in his television address to the Georgian people Saakashvili said: “We have been in constant contact with the leadership of the local Russian peacekeeping forces. Several hours ago, they told us that they have completely lost control over the actions of the separatists.… We are in constant contact with the leadership of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the ministry tells us Russia is trying to stop the separatists from engaging in armed action, but without any success.” ["Sakashvili's Televised Address on S. Ossetia," Civil Georgia, 7 August 2008, 21:45, www.civil.ge.]

HOW MANY RUSSIAN TANKS AND ARMOURED VEHICLES?

CLAIM: At an August 18 Heritage Foundation conference ‘The Russia-Georgian War: A Challenge to the U.S. and the World’ Georgian Ambassador to the US Vasil Sikharulidze stated that “1,200 tanks and 15,000 soldiers” entered Georgia “within 12 hours” bringing the number of Russian troops in all of Georgia to 25,000 as of August 18. Georgian Minister for Reintegration of Abkhazia and South Ossetia Temuri Yakobashvili told the conference by video phone that 1,200 tanks and armored personnel carriers entered Georgia in the first 48 hours of the Russian incursion. [Transcript of a Heritage Foundation Forum on the Russian-Georgian War "A Challenge for the U.S. and the World," Heritage Foundation, Washington D.C., August 18, 2008, Federal News Service, August 18, 2008.]

Three weeks after the war Yakobashvili also escalated his figures to “2,000 tanks.” [Nikolaus von Twickel, "Theories Swirl About War's Beginning," The Moscow Times, August 28, 2008.]

FACT: No independent source has confirmed the deployment of such a large Russian invasion force. The respected Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that in fact the “invasion force consisted of 15,000 and 150 tanks and heavy self-propelled artillery pieces.” [Giragosian, "Georgian planning flaws led to campaign failure."]

RUSSIA’S 3,000 ARMORED VEHICLES AND 80,OOO TROOPS

CLAIM: On August 24, Saakashvili claimed that the Russian military operation “planned for many months” brought “80,000 servicemen and mercenaries” and “about 3,000 armored vehicles” into Georgia. ["President says 80,000 Russian soldiers, 3,000 armored vehicles invaded Georgia," BBC Monitoring, August 24, 2008 citing Channel 1, Tbilisi, August 24, 2008, 1600 GMT.]

FACT: Such a deployment of equipment would mean that Russia’s entire 58th Army (and then some) was deployed from its jihad-plagued North Caucasus to South Ossetia. No other source has made such a claim.

RUSSIAN ATROCITIES

CLAIM: In his August 18 Washington Post article, Saakashvili wrote: “Within 24 hours of Russian forces of “brutally purging Georgian villages in South Ossetia, raping women and executing men.” [Saakashvili, "Russia's War Is The West's Challenge"]

On the same day as well, Saakashvili stated in a CNN interview that Russian planes were “specifically targeting the civilian population, and we have scores of wounded and dead among the civilian population all around the country, not so much in the conflict area.” [CNN interview with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, CNN News, 8 August 2008, www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2008/08/08/intv.saakashvili.cnn?iref=videosearch.]

At an August 12 press conference, Saakashvili asserted that despite a ceasefire the Russians were continuing to attack “purely civilian targets.” ["'Georgian Will Never Surrender'," CNN News, 12 August 2008, www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2008/08/12/sot.georgia.saakashvili.surrender.itn? iref=videosearch.]

In an August 13 press conference, Saakashvili stated: “Russian tanks are attacking the town of Gori and rampaging through the town…The worst kind of marauding I ever could imagine. There was a rampage through Georgian-controlled villages of South Ossetia and through upper Abkhazia ­ Kodori, and scores of people, according to the reports which we cannot totally confirm… Internment camps were set up, and we are getting reports of large-scale violation of human rights of the worst case…What we are seeing in the area is classical Balkan-type and World war II-type ethnic cleansing and purification campaigns. …(T)he worst kind of atrocities are being committed in my country against my people of all ethnic groups.” ["Tensions Still High in Georgia," CNN News, 13 August 2008, www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2008/08/13/sot.georgia.presser.saakashvili.ap?iref=videosearch.]

Minister Yakobashvili told the Heritage Foundation that Russian forces had engaged in “ethnic cleansing” and inflicted “enormous atrocities, unbelievable suffering” on the Georgian population. [Transcript of a Heritage Foundation Forum on the Russian-Georgian War "A Challenge for the U.S. and the World," Heritage Foundation, Washington DC, August 18, 2008, Federal News Service, August 18, 2008.]

FACT: As of two weeks after hostilities ended no campaign of ethnic cleansing or atrocities and no internment camps have been found. There have been no reports of Russians “raping women and executing men,” as Saakashvili claimed. There were later reports of destruction and perhaps a few murders committed by Chechen battalions (irresponsibly sent by Moscow to fight on its behalf) and Ossetian militiamen. The alleged large scale killing, raping and internment camps have not been mentioned again by Saakashvili or any other Georgian official. Human Rights Watch has reported one occasion on which Russian air forces appear to have used of cluster bombs, banned by international convention. The Georgian side has stated a official civilian death toll among Georgians of 69 as of August 25 with several hundred civilians wounded. ["Senior MP: 215 Killed in Conflict," Civil.ge, 19 August 2008, 23:05 www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19215&search=civilians%20killed]

This hardly amounts to the massive Russian atrocities being claimed by Tbilisi. Also, there are reports of rather good behavior on the part of Russian soldiers. [See Saba Tsitsikhashvili, "The Ramifications of the Ten-Day Blockade of Georgia," HumanRights.ge, 27 August 2008, www.humanrights.ge/index.php?a=article&id=3057&lang=en.]

As the respected military studies journal Jane’s Defence Weekly reported on August 15, it was the Georgian army that targeted the residential capitol of South Ossetia with an indiscriminate, all night artillery barrage on 7-8 August with “notoriously imprecise” truck-borne GRAD missiles. [Richard Giragosian, "Georgian planning flaws led to campaign failure," Jane's Defence Weekly, August 15, 2008 in Johnson's Russia List, #152, August 19, 2008, www.cdi.org/russia/johnsonwww.org]

THE RUSSIANS, NOT THE GEORGIANS DESTROYED TSKHINVALI

CLAIM: On August 13, Saakashvili told a press conference that Russian aerial bombardment, not Georgian artillery fire, “leveled the town of Tskhinvali.” ["Tensions Still High in Georgia," CNN News, 13 August 2008, www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2008/08/13/sot.georgia.presser.saakashvili.ap?iref=videosearch.]

FACT: Every independent source reports that Gerogian artillery bombarded Tskhinvali for twelve hours through th night of August 7-8. Saakashvili is the only person to claim that Georgia did not bomb Tskhinvali and that the Russians caused all or most of the damage.

RUSSIAN DESTRUCTION OF GEORGIAN CIVILIAN INFRASTRUCTURE

CLAIM: Saakashvili, as we have seen, accused Russia of destroying civilian infrastructure. His underlings, Ambassador  Sikhuralidze and Minister Yakobashvili ministers told the West that Russian forces were systematically destroying Georgia’s civilian infrastructure, including burning its forests and national parks and blowing up bridges to sever Georgia from its neighbors, Armeina and Azerbaijan. [Transcript of a Heritage Foundation Forum on the Russian-Georgian War.]

FACT: Reporters on the scene have reported a very different story: “In west Georgia, few signs of damage by Russia” shows, the Russians in fact “used force minimally” and “avoided any inadvertent high-profile attacks on civilian targets.” “Early in the conflict, Georgian officials in Tbilisi warned of an impending disaster as Russian tanks from Abkhazia massed at Zugdidi’s edge. But residents said there had been little or no damage to their town.” Even Russia’s air attacks on the port of Poti destroyed the military side of the port but left the civilian side intact. [Borzou Daraghi, "In west Georgia, few signs of damage by Russia," The Los Angeles Times, August 19, 2008.]

Regarding the torching of Georgian forests, a Georgian newspaper noted that the Russian military set fire to forests during the occupation of Kartli because it was searching for Georgian artillery weapons that Georgian artillerymen hid there during the Georgian army’s retreat; a fact left out Minister Yakobashvili’s comments. At least two major bridges were destroyed by Georgian forces in targeting Russians making crossings. ["Georgian artillery inflicted 'heavy losses' on Russians," BBC Monitoring, August 25, 2008 translating Georgian weekly Kviris Palitra, August 25, 2008; Roman Anin, "Kto v sopagakh ­ tot i srochnik. Ikh zdes' polno," Novaya gazeta, No. 62, 25 August 2008.]

RUSSIAN TROOPS ENCIRCLING TBILISI

CLAIM: On Wednesday, August 13, Saakashvili said in a CNN interview that Russian troops were “circling,” “closing on” and planning to capture the Georgian capitol, Tbilisi, and install a puppet government. [See Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili, "Georgian president's Russia claims raise eyebrows," Associated Press, 13 August 2008, 8:12.]

FACT: The Russians undertook no military operations against the Georgian capitol throughout the five-day war.

RUSSIA WILL BOMB TBILISI DEMONSTRATION

CLAIM: On August 12 Saakashvili mentioned and therefore gave credence to supposed rumors that Russia would bomb the August 12 rally in Tbilisi. [Dzhindzhikhashvili, "Georgian president's Russia claims raise eyebrows."]

FACT: There was no Russian bombing of Tbilisi throughout the war.

RUSSIA BOMBING THE BAKU-TBILISI-CEYHAN OIL PIPELINE

CLAIM: Minister Yakobashvili tried to pique American fears that Russian forces sought to interdict the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline by saying that the Russians had repeatedly tried to bomb it. [Transcript of a Heritage Foundation Forum on the Russian-Georgian War.]

FACT: A Russian force that included tens of sophisticated fighter jets and, according to the Georgians’ own statements, some 1,200-3,000 tanks and armored personnel carriers would have been able to bomb a pipeline and much else in the course of five days if it had wanted to.

CYBER WAR

CLAIM: Minister Yakobashvili and other Georgian officials claimed that Russian authorities initiated a large-scale cyber-attack on Georgian government websities before and during the war. [Transcript of a Heritage Foundation Forum on the Russian-Georgian War.]

FACT: Experts on cyber warfare have grave doubts that the Russian military or intelligence agencies conducted cyber warfare against Georgia. They argue that the suspected attacks were consistent with independent hacker networks that hit Georgian pornography and gambling websitas part of an extortion racket. Moreover, these attacks were only launched after Georgian forces had already engaged Russia forces, suggesting that they were either attacks by independents or that the Russians were not ready for war, since cyberwarfare is a part of the Russian arsenal. [Shaun Waterman, "Analysis: Russia-Georgia cyberwar doubted," United Press International, August 18, 2008.]

On August 5 Georgian hackers targeted SOTR (South Ossetia Television and Radio) after it reported that Tbilisi was covering up the killing of 29 Georgian servicemen during an exchange of fire between Ossetian and Georgian forces on August 1-2. [Osetinskie saity atakovany khakerami posle publikatsii o tainykh pokhoronakh gruzinskikh soldat," Regnum.ru, 5 August 2008, www.regnum.ru-news/1036460. html.]

THE U.S. IS TAKING OVER GEORGIA’S PORT AND AIRPORTS

CLAIM: On August 10 Saakashvili claimed on Georgian national television that the arrival of U.S. military cargo plane carrying humanitarian aid meant that “Georgia’s ports and airports will be taken under the control of the U.S. Defense Department.” [Dzhindzhikhashvili, "Georgian president's Russia claims raise eyebrows."]

FACT: The U.S. Defense Department Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell immediately refuted this: “We have no need, nor do we intend to take over any Georgian air or seaport to deliver humanitarian aid. … We have no designs on taking control of any Georgian facility.” [Dzhindzhikhashvili, "Georgian president's Russia claims raise eyebrows."]

The U.S. never did so.

RUSSIA HAS LOST MORE PLANES THAN IN ANY CONFLICT IN ITS HISTORY

CLAIM: In an August 13 television address Saakashvili said, “Russia has lost more airplanes than in any conflict of this scale since 1939.” [Dzhindzhikhashvili, "Georgian president's Russia claims raise eyebrows."]

FACT: The entire Soviet air force was destroyed in the first days of Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, and in the present war Russia is claiming the loss of four airplanes.

CONCLUSION

American support for Georgia in the present crisis is based in part on the belief that Russia is to be blame for instigating this war. Much of this belief is founded on Saakashvili’s and other Geoergian officials’ statements to American officials like the State Department’s Matthew Bryza. Western publics and decisionmakers should not take the statements of Georgian officials regarding this war or much of anything else at face value. They should think twice and then thrice about whether backing President Saakashvili, his aspirations for Georgian membership in NATO, and the resulting ‘hot peace’ with Moscow are in the West’s interests.

(Photo: White House)

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20 Responses to “Gordon Hahn: Georgia’s Propaganda War”

  1. Shevchuk says:

    Georgian Artillery Brigade was stationed in Gori, which is only 25 km from Tskhinvali. Moving self-propelled guns from Gori to the outskirts of Tskinvali needs hours, not days, and certainly not weeks. And so on. Conclusion: although in part correct, this review is dangerously biased.

  2. Kurt Nicklas says:

    There was propaganda on both sides. With regard to the absence of proof of the deliberate destruction of ethnic georgian villages, a look at the Human Rights Watch website hrw.org will show evidence that Mr. Hahn seems unwilling to address.

  3. murka says:

    an incredible analysis.

  4. Sally says:

    I agree that we saw a serious campaign of disinformation from Georgian officials. This disinformation concerns not only military actions but also the history of Georgian and Russian relations.

  5. AMac says:

    This is a useful compilation of claims and counterclaims. Many of the Georgian statements can be seen to be one-sided, deceptive, or outright wrong. However, some of the author’s “facts” also appear to be incorrect.

    “Georgian military officials have inadvertently revealed that they had brought heavy artillery into the conflict zone very early on.”
    As commenter Shevchuck already noted, the listed systems are mostly self-propelled guns, many or most with “shoot & scoot” capabilities. These are tracked or truck-mounted guns, all substantially smaller than an M1 tank. The unwary reader may associate “the conflict zone” with “South Ossetia,” but this would be incorrect. Much of the zone (as it existed on Aug. 7) encompassed the northern reaches of Georgia’s Kartli province. Since Tskhinvali is but 5 km from S. Ossetia’s southern border, it could easily be reached by these weapons systems (ranges of ~20 km to ~45 km) from within Georgia. (As residents of Tskhinvali know to their sorrow, area bombardment does not require the accuracy of short-range firing.)

    “It takes many days if not weeks to bring in the kind of heavy artillery about which the commander is talking…”
    This statement is both vague and unsupported.

    “HOW MANY RUSSIAN TANKS AND ARMOURED VEHICLES?”
    The author conflates tanks (e.g. T-72s) and armored vehicles (which includes APCs such as BMP-2s as well as tanks and SPGs). Pictures of Russian armor in South Ossetia were mostly of APCs. This may explain some or much of the discrepancy in numbers that the author reports.

    “FACT: As of two weeks after hostilities ended no campaign of ethnic cleansing or atrocities and no internment camps have been found.”
    Agreed on internment camps. “No campaign of ethnic cleansing”? Rather a shocking claim (HRW report) under the circumstances.

    “RUSSIAN DESTRUCTION OF GEORGIAN CIVILIAN INFRASTRUCTURE”
    Among the photos of damage to civilian infrastructure, the dynamiting of the bridge on Georgia’s sole East-West railway line stands out. But yes, the Russians could certainly have done worse, had they chosen.

    “RUSSIA BOMBING THE BAKU-TBILISI-CEYHAN OIL PIPELINE”
    The author does not explain the provenance of the aerial bomb craters within 50 feet of the BTC pipeline that Georgian officials showed to Wall St. Journal reporters. But again, yes, the Russians appear to have been satisfied with this clear demonstration of their ability and will to bomb or destroy the pipeline.

    “CYBER WAR”
    The linked UPI article “Analysis: Russia-Georgia cyberwar doubted” presents a much more nuanced view than the synopsis given above (“[Cyber-war experts] argue that the suspected attacks were consistent with independent hacker networks that hit Georgian pornography and gambling websites as part of an extortion racket.”)

    “RUSSIA HAS LOST MORE PLANES THAN IN ANY CONFLICT IN ITS HISTORY”
    Devious Saakashvili agitprop or an obvious use of poetic license?

  6. Jeff says:

    I must take great umbridge with some statements made by Mr. Hahn. I will try to address them in the order he has detailed as it seem the best format. Please keep in mind that we have NO international Media access to basically the NW quarter of the country.
    Russia Planned War
    It was highly reported that, in the 2 months prior to the war, the US participated with Georgia in a training exercise (approx. 1500 US Marines and Soldiers) to prepare the next Georgian Iraq contigent. At this same time Russia mirrored these operations just N. of S. Ossetia with approx. 8000 infantry and 300 armored/tank/support vehicles. There is a large Georgian base just outside Gori, not 15 km from the S. Ossetia border. This explains the large troop and equipment buildup in that area. The escalation he refers to included the illegal (by the terms of the peacekeeping mandate) use of 120mm artillery by Ossetians, supplied by Russia, to shell Georgian villages on Aug. 6-7.
    Ceasefire
    A ceasefire was declared, and then tit for tat shelling resumed, but Georgians were unable to silence the illegal artillery pieces as they could not locate them. Just because a ceasefire did not occur does not mean the intent was not there.
    Occupation of S. Ossetia
    Indeed Georgia did take S. Ossetia to lower Java and lost an elite paratrooper unit to the man while trying to stem the tide of the Russian Army by sealing the Roki Gorge on 8/7. Such a simple military strategy, plug the hole and the enemy can not enter. But why couldn’t Georgia plug it. Because the Rusian military was already on the move and had a small presence in lower Java. Russians undersand the strategic importance of maintaing a 2 lane road across a mountain pass it takes 2 hours to drive by car. A military column moves much slower than a car.
    So the Russians supplied illegal weapons and had a presence in Georgia proper before/during the time Georgian forces arrived at Tskhinvali.
    This means they were mobilized and on the move on August 6th/7th. Think invasion.
    Troop strength
    In S. Ossetia alone 5 batallions, approx. 7000 soldiers + armor/apc/artillery and support were committed. This does NOT include the Cossacks, Ossetians and Chechen irregular forces that moved with the Russian military. No numbers for the contigent deposited in Abkhazia by the Russian Navy, but as of today there are approx 40 Russian Naval vessels moving around. So 15,000 is not an unrealistic number by 8/18.
    Troop buildup
    Again no exact numbers, but Russian Forces continued to poor into Georgia and Abkhazia as quickly as they could be deposited. So any accusation that this number is incorrect is equally unsopported.
    Atrocities, the joy of war
    What Mr. Hahn fails to mention is that while Russian soldiers may or may not have participated in atrocities. Irregular forces, Ossetians, Cossacks, Chechens and whoever (think western private military companies/mercenaries) followed behind the curtain of the Russian force and they did commit horrendous atrocities. Please keep in mind that there is NO international media presence in the northern quarter of the country of Georgia. Initial media reports of the first 4-5 days were all Russian or form international media via their Moscow Bureaus. no one was on the ground until at least the 5th day in Tbilisi. Eye witness reports DO support atrocities committed by irregulars, under the “protection” of the Russian military to the extent that those who survived murder, rape and pillaging were systimatically deported via Russian military transports outside the Russian controlled areas and heavy construction equipment was brought in to tear down their homes. Sounds like ethnic cleansing, you be the judge. A camp was established in Tskhinvali, again no independent sources allowed, in which men were interred and forced to clean the city of bodies and rubbish.
    Russia did use cluster bombs (primarily antipersonnel weapons) in and around Gori, leaving hundreds of unexploded bomblets. Why bomb indiscriminantly a major metropolitan area with weapons designed to kill people? Maybe they were targeting civilians to clear out the city of possible resistance, maybe.
    Tskhinvali
    Both sides destroyed it. Come on man. The Georgians blew their way in and the Russians blew the Georgians back out. I think Grozny stands as a good track record of how Russians eject enemy forces from major metropolitan areas.
    Western Georgia
    Remember, NO western media sources, Humanitarian aid or observers allowed in the NW quarter. We don’t know what is going on there.
    Encircling Tbilsi
    Russians came to within 25 kilometers of Tbilsi and dug in. Their intentions were clear. After the ceasefire they moved Mobile missle systems (think SCUD’s) into Akhalgori, within 50 miles of Tbilisi. So the message was clear.
    Planes
    Mr. Hahn is Russia the Soviet Union? Please retract last statement.

    Mr. Hahn should seriously review his blog and address the inaccuracies I have presented above. Almost every example cited can be refuted with an equally strong source. Cherrypicking to make a blog fit your point of view is very, very poor scholarly work on such an important subject. If you need sources please let me know.

  7. AMac says:

    Jeff wrote –

    Georgia did take S. Ossetia to lower Java and lost an elite paratrooper unit to the man while trying to stem the tide of the Russian Army by sealing the Roki Gorge on 8/7… the Russian military was already on the move and had a small presence in lower Java.

    I am unaware of accounts of these events (but I do not read Georgian or Russian). Links to sources would be appreciated.

    Under the terms of the early-1990s agreement, some Russian troops were in South Ossetia as peacekeepers. So a small Russian presence in Java (between Didi Gupta and the Roki Tunnel) is not, of itself, evidence that Russian units transited the Roki Tunnel on August 7th (one of the major justifications offered by Georgia for its thrust to Tshkinvali).

  8. gosu says:

    >> There was propaganda on both sides
    so what from russians side? cant find any

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  10. alys says:

    to Shevchuk: Hitler also needed 1 minute to cross ussr border at 1941. but planning of operation Barbarossa was started at the middle of 1940.
    So you need to check when self-propelled guns were concentrated arround Gori.
    the flow of georgian operation shows that they do not repulse an “russian attack” but simply want to surround Chinval, hold it and put there the georgian puppet. And say that problem of osetian separatism is solved! But they attacked russian peacekeepers with tanks and heavy guns.
    Also because Chinval was surrounded with georgian willages, where georgian troops were concentrated, a lot of civilian refugees from Chinval were simply killed by tanks(shooting to cars) and snipers(shooting to everybody), because roads were controlled by georgians.
    but this is a very small part of history of this war.

  11. AMac says:

    Mr. Axe –

    If you or Mr. Haupt do choose to rebut any of the substantive criticisms raised in the comments here, perhaps you could so note, as a comment or update.

  12. Solo3 says:

    The failure of the Georgian special forces to disable the Roki tunnel has been the most puzzling aspect of the war. The strategic importance of sealing off Russia’s main supply line to the South – in effect a life-line – could not have been lost on the Georgian planners. Novosti reported that the Georgia saboteurs’ were prevented by Russian speznaz from blowing up the tunnel (http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20080820/116170190.html)

    I assume that the Russians had intelligence on operation “Clear Field” and sent their commando units beforehand to neutralize the tunnel sabotage.

    From what I have seen, all seems to indicate that the Georgian side was throughly fooled by the beefing up of the peacekeeper force and the Russian provocations in bringing up heavy defensive weapons into the enclaves, in the late
    spring – early summer. The Russians led the Georgian/US military analysts to conclude that their posture in the enclaves would be purely defensive, and Russia would be fighting them politically rather than by a massive military counter-attack that would annihilate their whole offensive arsenal. They completely overlooked or misapprehended the cracker-jack 58th army elements in North Ossetia, specifically trained for lightning strikes and “surgical” carving of low-to-middling military infrastucture.

  13. [...] Georgia launched a concerted propaganda campaign last month in a bid to sucker the West into defending the tiny country against Russian attacks that, according to some, Georgia had provoked by itself attacking Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia. [...]

  14. [...] Second, the government, in collusion with the Bush administration, exacerbated tensions between Georgia and Russia by encouraging NATO expansion right up to Russia’s borders. Beyond the imminent threat Georgia posed to Russians in South Ossetia, it also posed a major threat to Russia proper by way of an ever-expanding, increasingly aggressive NATO. (Consider that NATO is engaged in active combat in Afghanistan, a country bordering a former Soviet republic.) Russia would have been foolish not to respond to this antagonism once threats and words had turned into artillery and gunfire. [...]

  15. [...] At DANGER ROOM and in The Economist’s online debate series, I have taken the position that Georgia provoked Russia into attacking South Ossetia, and then tried to lure the West into helping defend Georgia via a concerted propaganda campaign. [...]

  16. [...] The sole basis for Axe’s account was an email sent out by one Professor Gordon Hahn and republished by Axe on his blog. We have previously discredited Hahn over at my blog La Russophobe and exposed his persistent pro-Kremlin misinformation about Russia. In a nutshell, he has close ties to Peter Lavelle, who is employed by the Russia Today Kremlin-funded propaganda TV network and whom La Russophobe has likewise previously exposed as a shameless pro-Kremlin shill.  German sources are now reporting that Russia Today has censored their Tbilisi correspondent William Dunbar’s reporting on Russian bombing of civilians in the Georgian city of Gori during the recent war, and Dunbar has resigned in protest. Its coverage of Russia’s actions in the crisis has been intensely partisan, to say the least. Pages: 12Next [...]

  17. hugeness says:

    well, here goes
    1. it is documented that both the russians and georgians agreed a meeting was scheduled for 7th august. the s.ossetians denied it had been arranged.
    2. kokioty in interview on russian tv when asked if he would be contacting tbilisi, said there was no need, the russians were looking after him.
    3. everyone knew war was on the cards, but the russians were at least supposed to pretend to be neutral
    4. the russians lied in 1993 about georgia painting planes in russian colours to bomb their own troops, 5 russian ‘neutral’ bombers bombed the georgians, then the russians lied about it, the UN caught them out when a russian plane was shot down, and a russian major was presented.
    the russians lied about the downing of the georgian drone, to the UN. they breached the peace deal by bringing in extra troops, nullifying the peace terms. kokoity bussed the non combatants from s.osstetia days before the conflict. all this propaganda from s.ossetia and russia far outweighs what is normal from a defender trying to keep tactical manoeuvrings secret.
    russia and s.ossetia agreed on july 15th that s.ossetia could join the Russian Federation. THIS WAS PUBLISHED IN REGNUM MR JOURNALIST HAHN BIG FACTS IN CAPITALS. and initial legal stuff took place in april. we knew in april russia would attack, just like all the researched proper journalists have told you.

  18. hugeness says:

    Jeff comments are pretty much spot on except the cluster bombs were probably just bombs.

    there is a heap more stuff, but some choice bits… it was reported a few days in that a russian soldier said that the battle to retake tsingvalli was particularly fierce. FACT fierce fighting is destructive, its not the cleaning fairies.

    the assualt on s.ossetia can only have been a prempetive strike to buy time. anyone with military experience would know this. the georgians knew the russians were approaching the roki tunnel on at least the 4th. taking the roki tunnel would not have stopped the russians, the georgians knew the russians has built a railway through abkhazia. the russians had massive air superiority, and noone ever wins without it.

    1993 we knew the russians were not neutral
    United Nations military observers confirm Georgian reports that the pilot of the Su-27 fighter-bomber downed by Georgian fighters on March 19, 1993, was a major in the Russian air force; Russia later confirmed this, saying that the sortie was designed to protect Russian facilities.20 This evidence draws into serious doubt the already highly incredible claims of the Russian military command that the Georgian side painted Russian markings on five Su-25 bombers and was using them to bomb their own troops
    2004 we knew the russians were not neutral.http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/sais_review/v025/25.1freese.html#authbio

    2005 we knew the russians were not neutral … BBC4, places that dont exist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zWuu-F_bbY&feature=related
    more recent: http://www.tol.cz/look/TOL/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=281&NrSection=1&NrArticle=19821
    lastly, both kokoity (s.ossetia) and Sergei Bagapsh (abkhazia) are siloviki – ex-communist party. ie russian puppets.
    s.ossetia lied about peace talks Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration and chief negotiator over conflicts, said on August 5 that the meeting between him and Boris Chochiev in presence of the Russian chief negotiator over South Ossetia, Yuri Popov, had already been agreed.

    Yuri Popov has also confirmed that the sides were due to meet in Tskhinvali on August 7 in his presence. No representative from the Russia’s North Ossetian Republic was invited.

    Late on August 5 the South Ossetian side has rejected that the meeting was arranged and said it would only agree to meet in frames on JCC.
    i could go on, there is a mass of documentary evidence that russia could have stopped this.

  19. [...] August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia was fought at sea, in the air, on land … and in the press, as both sides tried to spin events in their favor. The shooting has ended. The propaganda war [...]

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