Growing doubts about the government’s actions in the August war with Russia, which destroyed much of Georgia’s military, as well as residual anger over last year’s anti-opposition crackdown seem palpable today as over 10,000 members of the opposition rallied in the streets of Tbilisi demanding new parliamentary and presidential elections.
Newly available reports by independent military observers of the brief August war have called into further question Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s claims of acting defensively. The accounts point to indiscriminate Georgian bombardment of civilian areas of the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali while simultaneously failing to corroborate Georgian claims of Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages in the area.
This is the second major report casting doubts on Georgia’s claims regarding the August War to come along this week: on Tuesday Human Rights Watch issued a report about the widespread use of defective Israeli cluster bombs by Georgia’s military, which have already killed at least three Georgian civilians and left thousands of bomblets scattered around populated areas.
Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria said that his nation has “so much evidence of Russian military buildup” that the new reports don’t change anything. The “very solid proof” regularly cited by President Saakashvili of a Russian military buildup consists of intercepted phone calls regarding troop movements, though Russia insisted the movements were just routine rotations and NATO was unable to verify any meaningful troop buildup with its surveillance satellites.