The Independent’s William Dunbar reports from Tbilisi that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed firm support for Georgia, using the word “occupation” to describe the presence of Russian troops there.
RFE/RL reports that most of the 200 asylum seekers from Chechnya, Georgia and Ingushetia who attempted to travel to Strasbourg by train but were detained at the Polish-German border yesterday are now returning to Poland, where they are being temporarily held at a refugee centre in Warsaw:
The protesters — who boarded the train without tickets — told RFE/RL they wanted to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to highlight their poor living conditions in Polish refugee centers and police abuse they said they have experienced.
The refugees have reportedly been refused political asylum in Poland.
Meanwhile, the pro-Moscow Chechen President Ramazan Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny today that the refugee protest in Poland is an “act of desperation.”
He said, “If these people return home, their rights will be protected better.”
Polish journalist Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich, who writes about human rights in Chechnya, told RFE/RL that it is hard to obtain political asylum in Poland in general but the European Union law known as the Dublin Regulation does not allow refugees to leave Poland for another EU country if an asylum request is refused in Poland.
She said that creates difficulties for Polish officials, who do not know what to do with the refugees, and leaves the asylum-seekers with few options.
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 4 Aug.’09 / 12:27
Georgian Interior Ministry said on Tuesday that two grenades were fired in direction of its police post close to the South Ossetian administrative border late on August 3.
One out of two grenades apparently fire from a hand-held grenade-launcher exploded in an immediate proximity to the police post located in the village of Plavismani at 9:30pm local time on August 3, the Georgian Interior Ministry said. No injuries were reported.
The authorities in breakaway South Ossetia reported late last night that three mortar rounds were fired from the Georgian village of Plavismani in direction of the village of Ortev on the South Ossetian side of the administrative border at 10:05pm local time on August 3. These villages are located in the south-east from the breakaway region’s capital, Tskhinvali.
EU Calls for Restraint over S.Ossetia
EUMM Says No Evidence of Firing towards S.Ossetia
Russia Warns Georgia against ‘Provocations’
Tbilisi Denies S.Ossetia Reports on Shooting
EUMM Calls for Restraint Ahead of War Anniversary
Moscow is now threatening Georgia with military aggression. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, speaking in Beijing, is said by BBC World Service (The World Today, 8am) to have promised direct action. gazeta.ru reports that the South Ossetia regime’s security council has requested Russian military aid “within the hour”. Russian air strikes have already taken place against targets on Georgian territory outside the conflict zone.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze has issued a statement in which he defends the use of “peace enforcement measures” to resolve the situation (via Civil Georgia):
“Government troops were forced to launch measures for the establishment of peace in the region after separatist forces responded to President Saakashvili’s peace initiatives by shelling Georgian villages,” PM Gurgenidze said.
“Government forces are now undertaking measures to secure the restoration and establishment of a guaranteed peaceful situation, wherein there will be no longer a threat to the population of that region.”
“These measures are ongoing now and will continue until we reach this goal,” he added.
PM Gurgenidze, however, also said that Tbilisi was willing to engage in dialogue at any time to resolve the conflict.
He said that there were casualties, both dead and wounded, but did not give details. He said that the Interior Ministry planned to provide hourly updates for the press.
PM Gurgenidze said that infiltration of “so-called volunteers” into South Ossetia from the Russian Federation via Roki Tunnel had been observed overnight on August 8.
“We are also undertaking measures to prevent further massive infiltration of those volunteers, because they are one of the major sources of destabilization,” he said.
He also called on the population to remain calm. “Today is a usual working day,” the PM said.
The prime minister said that the government had already allocated an initial GEL 50 million for humanitarian and infrastructure rehabilitation, which, he said, would be needed “as soon as peace is established.”
Heavy fighting “in and around Tskhinvali” was reported as PM Gurgenidze was speaking, as well as all night.
The South Ossetia side said there were casualties on its side, mainly among civilians, but no exact numbers were reported. Some sources said at least 15 people were killed in Tskhinvali, but others suggested more comprehensive information would reveal a higher figure.
Russian peacekeeping forces reported that “all type of heavy weaponry” was used by both sides during the overnight fighting. Georgian warplanes were also seen over the conflict zone at dawn. The Russian peacekeepers reported that five Georgian SU-25 Frogfoot attack aircraft attacked South Ossetian military positions in the village of Kverneti.
Itar-Tass news agency reported that Georgian warplanes also carried out strikes on South Ossetian positions in Java in the north of the region, which is outside the formal area of the conflict zone – a 15-kilometer radios around Tskhinvali.
“Heavy fighting in and around Tskhinvali is ongoing,” the South Ossetian Press and Information Committee reported. “The people of South Ossetia request the president and the leadership of the Russian Federation to help and to undertake measures to protect its citizens in South Ossetia.”
After a Georgian defence ministry announcement that the government has decided to restore constitutional order in its secessionist province of South Ossetia, Georgian forces have resumed shelling of separatist troops, and are carrying out aerial strikes against the rebels.
Civil Georgia reports that
The Georgian troops have “neutralized the separatist forces’ firing positions” in Znauri, a district center in the west from Tskhinvali, Shota Utiashvili, the Interior Ministry spokesman, told Civil.Ge at 5:40am local time on August 8.
There are also reports that Russian military jets have been bombing Georgian territory near South Ossetia.
The situation in the Kodori Gorge continues to be uneasy, with both sides in the “frozen” conflict warning of impending war. A lot of this appears to be rhetoric for foreign consumption. However, something is afoot, and a Times correspondent witnessed
a convoy of Russian military fuel tankers en route to Sukhumi from the border crossing on the Psoi river. At an Abkhaz base near the Kodori Gorge troops took delivery of two trucks loaded with shells.