Russian troops advance into Georgia, violating truce

Thursday, August 14, 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

According to Georgian officials and scattered news reports, Russian soldiers and South Ossetian paramilitaries have marched into the Georgian city of Gori. This comes one day after a truce was made by both nations to put an end to the six-day war that has killed many and uprooted thousands.

Gori, as viewed from the Gori Fortress.

"Russia has treacherously broken its word," said Georgia's Security Council chief Alexandre Lomaia. Georgian officials also said that Gori was looted and bombed by the Russians, though the latter denies this claim.

An Associated Press (AP) reporter witnessed dozens of tanks and military vehicles leaving Gori in a southeast direction. One Russian soldier jokingly said to a photographer, "Come with us, beauty, we're going to Tbilisi!" Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia.

A CNN crew observed thousands of Georgian troops packing up and leaving Gori at high speed. Georgia has said it was recalling the troops to defend Tbilisi. According to the AP, a BBC reporter witnessed Russian tanks in the streets of Gori, while South Ossetians were seizing Georgian cars and looting homes.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has stated that he thinks the Western response to this situation has been inadequate. "I feel that they are partly to blame," he said. "Not only those who commit atrocities are responsible ... but so are those that fail to react."

A Russian ministry of defence official told Interfax that Russian troops were in Senaki to "prevent attacks by Georgian military units against South Ossetia."

"To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis," US president George W. Bush said.

Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister, responded to the US statement by calling Georgia "a special project of the United States. And we understand that the United States is worried about its project."

At the United Nations, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russia would not sign a French-drafted cease-fire resolution. "We will look at the draft and try to bring it to a standard where it can play a role in this," Churkin said.