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Russian Tanks Invade Georgia

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TBLISI, Georgia (CNN) -- Russian television Friday showed a convoy of Russian tanks and said they were heading into the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia as escalating tensions over the region threatened to boil into full blown conflict.

The move came after Russia denounced as "aggressive" a Georgian troops military offensive to regain control over the province, vowing to respond.

Russian authorities earlier said several of its peacekeepers died in a Georgian attack in South Ossetia, which borders Russia and has strong ties to its vast northern neighbor, and they vowed not to leave Russian citizens in the territory unprotected.

"The Georgian leadership has launched a dirty adventure," a statement from Russia's Defense Ministry said on Friday. "We will not leave our peacekeepers and Russian citizens unprotected."

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Georgia started the fighting and warned that Russia would respond to their actions.

"Heavy weapons and artillery have been sent there, and tanks have been added. Deaths and injuries have been reported, including among Russian peacekeepers," Putin said in comments carried Friday by Russia's Interfax news agency. Watch more about the increased violence in Georgia ยป

"It's all very sad and alarming. And, of course, there will be a response."

Earlier Friday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in a televised statement that Russian aircraft bombed several Georgian villages and other civilian facilities.

He added that there were injuries and damage to buildings. "A full-scale aggression has been launched against Georgia," he said.

A Georgian official reported that seven people were hurt in the attack, the Associated Press said.

Saakashvili urged Russia to immediately stop bombing Georgian territory. "Georgia will not yield its territory or renounce its freedom," he said.

He also called for the full-scale mobilization of Georgian reserve forces as fighting continued to rage in South Ossetia's capital.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer issued a statement Friday saying he was seriously concerned about the recent events in the region, and called on "all sides to end armed clashes and begin direct talks."

"We urge all sides to refrain from violence and to begin direct talks."

Russian peacekeepers are in South Ossetia under a 1992 agreement by Russian, Georgian, and South Ossetian authorities to maintain what has been a fragile peace. The mixed peacekeeping force also includes Georgian and South Ossetian troops.

The latest events came just hours after the U.N. Security Council finished an emergency session to discuss a dramatic escalation of violence in Georgia and South Ossetia. The session ended Friday morning without a statement about the fighting.

Violence has been mounting in the region in recent days, with sporadic clashes between Georgian forces and South Ossetian separatists. South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, but its independence is not internationally recognized.

Georgian troops launched new attacks in South Ossetia late Thursday after a top government official said a unilateral cease-fire offer was met with separatist artillery fire.

"The objective of the operation is to protect the civilian population, to ensure their security and then convince the separatists that there is not a military solution to this conflict," said Alexander Lomaia, the secretary of Georgia's National Security Council.

Lomaia said Georgian troops were responding proportionately to separatist mortar and artillery attacks on two villages -- attacks he said followed the cease-fire and call for negotiations by Saakashvili.

The official news agency of the South Ossetian government reported heavy shelling in the territory's capital, Tskhinvali, that left dozens of buildings ablaze.

About 2,000 Georgian troops attempted to storm Tskhinvali overnight and were regrouping south of the city, according to Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency.

Around 10 a.m. Friday, Georgia said Russian military aircraft violated Georgian airspace and dropped two bombs on Kareli, a part of Georgia that is about 50 miles northwest of the capital, Tblisi, and is not in the conflict zone, said Shota Utiashvili, spokesman for the Georgian Ministry of Interior.

Georgia, located on the Black Sea coast between Russia and Turkey, has been split by Russian-backed separatist movements in South Ossetia and another region, Abkhazia.

Georgian and South Ossetian negotiators had been scheduled to meet Friday in Tskhinvali, Moscow's chief negotiator, Yuri Popov, told the Russian news agency Interfax.

Saakashvili announced Thursday night that he had ordered his troops to cease fire while the negotiators met, but Lomaia said the call was met with more attacks.

In addition, Lomaia said, hundreds of "mercenaries" -- or "volunteers," as the South Ossetians described them -- are pouring across the border from Russia to join the fight.

The commander of a Russian peacekeeping mission has told Georgian officials that his troops are unable to control the situation, Lomaia said.

Interestingly enough, the Georgian president is gave a live television interview to CNN as the news broke and indeed confirmed that two Russian aircraft were shot down by Georgian forces after a supposed bombing run on civilian targets.

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No so much news coverage on this little war. And little is mentioned about U.S. Military involvement in Georgia...strange. Maybe it means Georgia is going to be left to defend herself?

It's going to be interesting to see how the 2,000 Georgian troops in Iraq will play out. Considering how small the Georgian Military is, they will have to leave as soon as possible, right?


I'm assuming that the uniforms were supplied by the U.S. Military. Why do they resemble so much the USMC camouflage pattern?

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Why do they resemble so much the USMC camouflage pattern?

I doubt they were supplied by us.

It's just military fashion. The Colombians and South Korean marines have adopted digital patterns that are very similar to the USMC pattern, but not identical. It's not unlike when the US Army had spiked helmets in the 1880s. They had looked at the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War and concluded "it's gotta be the helmets."

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I wonder if that is what the object of the Russian excercise was? Random thought...

Why would they want that? I don't think that's a major Russian concern.

I think they are more interested in letting the Ossetia situation continue, thus nixing Georgian NATO membership. Probably also why Georgia took the bull by the horns. If the Georgians get the South Ossetia issue sorted, they'll find doors open at NATO HQ. Once in, they can finally tell the Russians to go feck themselves.

Or the Russians might just go whole hog and try to take back all of Georgia.

I wonder what the Ukraine will do?

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What is the average marching speed of an armoured column consisting of 150 armoured vehicles plus the necessary supply trucks, including the time used in giving marching orders and such?

From the Rok tunnel at the Georgian border, leading to north Ossetia, it is roughly 50 km to Tskhinvali where heavy fighting is taking place. Looking at the Google Earth I found the closest Russian military base in Mozdok, which is by road about 200 km from the Georgian border.

Do they have a staging area for their armoured battalions closer to the border or did they cover 250 km in less than 12 hours? The president of Georgia told in the CNN news they reacted first when they heard the Russian forces were already enroute.

When Soviet Union invaded Afganistan on christmas day to avoid an immediate international wave of protests, Russia starting a war in the beginning of olympic games wouldn't surprise me. I just need to get the timetable confirmed.

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I wonder how long this whole invasion thing was in the works. How could Georgia not see this coming? If they did, they would've not sent 2,000 troops to Iraq, unless, of course, they thought the U.S. would some how feel obligated to help out an ally for helping out in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Why is Georgia still leaving 1,000 troops in Iraq? Are they that confident in winning?

And I'm still perplexed on the lack of coverage on this invasion/war. Here we have a major superpower invading a U.S. ally, yet other stories such as political affairs are more important? Very strange indeed!

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Do they have a staging area for their armoured battalions closer to the border or did they cover 250 km in less than 12 hours? The president of Georgia told in the CNN news they reacted first when they heard the Russian forces were already enroute.

They had been staging on the border on 'exercise' for awhile. Georgians agreed to the cease fire, but resumed fighting as South Ossetians kept the fire up on border. As Georgians returned fire, Russian had the pretext to move in. Seems planned pretty old school way..

And like Viljuri said in the other board, expect Russian claims of genocide soon as additional reason for them to come in. Of course, they have their 'citizens' to defend too. Those citizens just happen to be Ossetians who been given the citizenships during the last years.

Will the Russians stop at South Ossetia or not? Atleast according to OSCE Georgian side has been very willing to start talks about cease fire, while Ossetians has refused all initiatives. Not that Georgians seem to have cared much about collateral damage on their attack yesterday..

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They had been staging on the border on 'exercise' for awhile. Georgians agreed to the cease fire, but resumed fighting as South Ossetians kept the fire up on border. As Georgians returned fire, Russian had the pretext to move in. Seems planned pretty old school way..

Keep in mind that the Georgian "return fire" consisted of leveling of half of Tskhinvali via Grad missile barrage. I'm not so naive to think the Russians are guided by any sort of altruistic motives, by to me the Georgians lost any sort of credibility as the innocent victim when they employed unguided high explosives against a civilian center. Furthermore, ten Russian peacekeepers were killed as a result of the Georgian artillery, who were there by UN mandate. Neither side can claim to have the moral high ground here.

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Probably the blame can be attributed to many directions, a part of it can be traced back to the Sudetenland scenario (namely to the Teutonic hordes, giving the contemporary Russians too many good ideas how to create incidents with their neighbors), maybe a bit to the Hungarian uprising (the US is to blame if they give false assurances in a lax manner) and surely the nationalistic chauvinism is in play too (both by the Russians and the Georgians).

Then again, market prices of oil were in decline, did our Russian friends feel they don't want to sell their oil too cheaply? Or did the Georgians feel they can make a sneak attack and restore their national integrity, current enclaves being by and large designer creations by the Russian intelligence services in the early 1990's?

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