The NYT/IHT has published a new examination, by C.J. Chivers, Dan Bilefsky and Thom Shanker, of the evidence relating to the start of the Georgia war, which includes references to the statements of Captain Denis Sidristy and other testimony supporting the claim that the conflict was ignited by Russia on August 7. The Georgian authorities provided audio files of telephone intercepts along with English translations to the NYT, which made its own translation from the original Ossetian into Russian and then into English. The NYT report contains some interesting remarks by Matthew Bryza, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state who coordinates diplomacy in the Caucasus. Bryza is quoted as saying that
the contents of the recorded conversations were consistent with what Georgians appeared to believe on Aug. 7, in the final hours before the war, when a brief cease-fire collapsed.
“During the height of all of these developments, when I was on the phone with senior Georgian officials, they sure sounded completely convinced that Russian armored vehicles had entered the Roki Tunnel, and exited the Roki Tunnel, before and during the cease-fire,” he said. “I said, under instructions, that we urge you not to engage these Russians directly.”
By the night of Aug. 7, he said, he spoke with Eka Tkeshelashvili, Georgia’s foreign minister, shortly before President Saakashvili issued his order to attack. “She sounded completely convinced, on a human level, of the Russian presence,” Bryza said. ” ‘Under these circumstances,’ she said, ‘We have to defend our villages.’ ”