By Sergei Lavrov
The writer is minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation
Published: August 12 2008 19:52 | Last updated: August 12 2008 19:52
For some of those witnessing the fighting in the Caucasus over the past few days, the narrative is straightforward and easy. The plucky republic of Georgia, with just a few million citizens, was attacked by its giant eastern neighbour, Russia. Add to this all the stereotypes of the cold war era, and you are presented with a truly David and Goliath interpretation – with all its accompanying connotations of good and evil. While this version of events is being written in much of the western media, the facts present a different picture.
Let me be absolutely clear. This is not a conflict of Russia’s making; this is not a conflict of Russia’s choosing. There are no winners from this conflict. Hours before the Georgian invasion, Russia had been working to secure a United Nations Security Council statement calling for a renunciation of force by both Georgia and South Ossetians. The statement that could have averted bloodshed was blocked by western countries.
Last Friday, after the world’s leaders had arrived at the Beijing Olympics, Georgian troops launched an all-out assault on the region of South Ossetia, which has enjoyed de facto independence for more than 16 years. The majority of the region’s population are Russian citizens. Under the terms of the 1992 agreement to which Georgia is a party, they are afforded protection by a small number of Russian peacekeeping soldiers. The ground and air attack resulted in the killing of peacekeepers and the death of an estimated 1,600 civilians, creating a humanitarian disaster and leading to an exodus of 30,000 refugees. The Georgian regime refused to allow a humanitarian corridor to be established and bombarded a humanitarian convoy. There is also clear evidence of atrocities having been committed – so serious and systematic that they constitute acts of genocide.