Georgia withdraws from South Ossetia

Sunday, August 10, 2008

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The above file photo (2004) shows a sniper taking aim at Ossetian rebels in South Ossetia to allow the Georgian Army forces to move forward Photograph: Jonathan Alpeyrie

The government of Georgia has announced that it has withdrawn all its troops from South Ossetia, in what it described as "a necessary step to protect civilians". The Georgian military has made clear that they are not admitting military defeat by withdrawing.

This comes just one day after Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of Georgia, declared that his country was in a state of war. "I have signed a decree on a state of war. Georgia is under a state of total military aggression by the Russian navy, air force, large-scale ground operations," he said in a televised meeting that was broadcast on national television yesterday.

The decree stated that "The state of war will be valid for 15 days [from yesterday]." It is not known if the state of war will continue after this withdrawal.

The crisis broke out after days of heavy fighting in the region. On August 7, Georgian troops launched an offensive against the Ossetian town of Tskhinvali, the capital. The next day Russian forces entered the territory of Georgia and bombed several targets in the country.

On August 10th, Russian Black Sea Fleet began a naval blockade of Georgian port of Poti and landed several thousand Russian troops in Abkhazia in western Georgia. The Ukraine threatened to bar Russian warships dispatched to the Abkhazian coast from returning to their Ukrainian base of Sevastopol if they engage in any military action.

At the same time Poland dispatched a government airplane to evacuate its citizens, as well as citizens of the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Estonia from Georgia. The Polish evacuation was followed by the government of Italy.

The conflict is continuing and reports state that the death toll for civilians could range in the thousands.