Propose setting up a tribunal for crimes against humanity
MOSCOW: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev has accused Georgia of committing “genocide” against the people of South Ossetia and vowed to continue the Russian military operation in the region.
“Georgia launched a cruel, cynical aggression against South Ossetia; our citizens died — residents and peacekeepers” said Mr. Medvedev on Sunday.
“The form this aggression took is nothing less than genocide because Georgia committed heaviest crimes — civilians were torched, sawed to pieces and rolled over by tanks,” he added.
More than 2,000 residents of Georgia’s breakaway territory, mostly Russian citizens, died when Georgia launched a full-scale military assault against South Ossetia on Friday, wiping out several villages and reducing to ruins the capital Tskhinvali.
Over 34,000 people — more than a half of South Ossetia’s population — have fled to Russia.
“There should be no doubt that the operation to force Georgia to peace will continue and the guilty ones will be brought to account,” said Mr. Medvedev. Russian emergency aid workers said the remaining residents of Tskhinvali would be evacuated to Russia’s North Ossetia on Tuesday because most houses and utilities in the city had been destroyed.
Mr. Medvedev ordered an investigation into Georgian acts of genocide, instructing the Investigation Committee of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office to collect and document evidence of atrocities committed by Georgian troops in South Ossetia for future trials.
He proposed a special international tribunal be set up for Georgian crimes against humanity.
Meeting refugees from South Ossetia earlier, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also accused Georgia and said it was committing “complete genocide.”
Mr. Putin said the territorial integrity of Georgia had “suffered a fatal blow,” sending a clear signal that Georgia would never get back South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Georgian territory that broke away in the early 1990s, into Georgia. Before Georgia embarked on what Mr. Putin termed a “criminal adventure” in South Ossetia, Moscow had offered the Georgian leaders assistance in reuniting South Ossetia and Abkhazia if Georgia renounced its plans to join NATO. Moscow has struck a similar deal with Moldova, helping it to reunite its Russian-speaking territory, Transdniestr, which declared independence in the 1990s. Mr. Putin’s words suggest Russia now rules out this option for Georgia.
Abkhazia on the offensive
Abkhazia has opened a second front against Georgia in the strategic Kodori Gorge. Abkhaz artillery and aircraft have been bombarding Georgian forces in the region, according to Abkhazia’s President Sergei Bagabsh.
“We have set a deadline for Georgian forces to withdraw from the upper part of the Kodori Gorge,” said Mr. Bagabsh in a statement broadcast by Russian TV.
“If they do not comply we will begin our operation according to plan,” he added.