Page last updated at 17:26 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 18:26 UK

Russia and Georgia in verbal war

Children play in Tskhinvali, 3/8/09
Much of the South Ossetian capital is still in ruins

Georgia and Russia have stepped up a propaganda battle, each accusing the other of starting their war over South Ossetia, on the eve of the anniversary.

Georgia has repeated its claim that its assault on South Ossetia was a response to a secret Russian invasion.

Russia has denied it was first to move, and accused the Georgian government of "a pre-planned criminal act".

Correspondents say rhetoric has been flying and warn that claims from both sides should be treated with caution.

The conflict erupted on 7 August 2008, as Georgia tried to retake control of its rebel region South Ossetia, following weeks of clashes and escalating tensions.

Russian forces quickly repelled the assault, and pushed further into Georgia.

Some days after the war broke out, Georgia said its attack was a response to a "large-scale Russian invasion" earlier in the day by Russian tanks and armoured vehicles through the Roki tunnel between South Ossetia and Russia.

It released a report on Thursday including evidence like phone intercepts that it said proved its case.

It said the alleged Russian assault was "premeditated" and the "violent climax of policies pursued by Russia against Georgia over many years".

The claim has received little support from Georgia's allies, the US and Nato.

But the West has accused Russia of a disproportionate response to Georgia's attack, and was dismayed at Russia's decision to recognise South Ossetian independence.

Russia has rubbished the Roki tunnel claims.

Its foreign ministry said on Thursday: "The Georgian authorities chose to shoot to pieces their country's territorial integrity with Grad [rocket launcher] systems."


In recent days Russia has accused Georgia of re-arming and preparing for a new conflict. Georgia says Russia has seized more Georgian land. Both sides accuse each other of shooting incidents.

EU monitors in Georgia say they have seen no evidence for any of the claims.

The war last year was characterised by accusations and counter-accusations, many of which turned out not to be true.

Analysts say the propaganda war is again in full flow as both sides seek to gain the moral high ground.


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