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Separating fact from fiction

Jon Williams Jon Williams | 16:54 UK time, Friday, 15 August 2008

Over the past week, two battles have been fought on the borders of Georgia and South Ossetia; a military campaign, and a fight for the airwaves. In both, the BBC has found itself in the middle.

President SaakashviliLast week, a BBC team was filming near the Georgian town of Gori when a Russian fighter jet opened fire on them. My colleagues were lucky - others have been less so. Five news staff - four journalists and a driver - have been killed since the fighting erupted. Others have been threatened and robbed at gunpoint by paramilitaries. War is a dangerous business.

The battle for public opinion has been just as intense. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, viewers to BBC World News - including those up late in the UK - were treated to the extraordinary sight of my colleague Nik Gowing conducting a live interview with Georgian President Saakashvili in his war room during World News America.

The President, "Dad's-Army" style, used a pen to point to a map detailing the latest Russian advance - and this at 3am in the morning in Tbilisi! It's one of around half a dozen interviews President Saakashvili has done with the BBC in the past seven days.

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei LavrovFor the BBC to have access to someone so influential, as a key moment, is of course vital to our storytelling. But that level of access also carries with it an inherent danger. We need to ensure balanced coverage. Fortunately, during the past week, the BBC has had interviews with the Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, the deputy Prime Minister, Mr Ivanov and yesterday, viewers to BBC One were treated to a live interview with a Russian General speaking fluent English, sitting in our studio in Moscow. Another first.

But war, is not only dangerous, it's also dirty. Separating fact from fiction is hard - but it's vital. On 10 August, Russia's English language news channel Russia Today, reported that the death toll in South Ossetia had reached 2,000. While the BBC has Matthew Collin permanently based in Tbilisi - and we were quickly able to reinforce him with colleagues from Moscow and London - getting access to South Ossetia has proved more difficult.

Yesterday colleagues from Danish and Canadian broadcasters were robbed close to the border. It's not been safe enough to travel from Tbilisi to the town of Tskhinvali in South Ossetia, the scene, say the Russians of destructuction at the hands of the Georgians. Not until Wednesday - six days after the first shots were fired - was a BBC team able to get in to see what had happened for themselves, and then only in the company of Russian officials. It's clear there's been great suffering in both Georgia and South Ossetia, but it's proved impossible for us to verify that figure of 2,000 dead.

And for people, like journalists, who deal in facts, that means war is dangerous, dirty...and frustrating.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    The west is largely brainwashed with the US way of waging war where civilian deaths are few and accidental, and the US military are really nice guys who are polite and only fire if absolutely needed. The US also, generally, spends days if not weeks, bombing in areas where very few reporters can get too and so we are led to believe that only the enemy are killed. I doubt that the truth is anything like that. What we see in the Russian attack is war as it is really is..

    The worst part of this whole event outside of the fighting, has been the comments from the US administration. I have been stunned by some of the things that Bush and Rice has said. Are they SERIOUS? Do they really believe that everything that the US has done over the last 20 years is so righteous and correct that they truly believe they can criticize Russia?

  • Comment number 2.

    I am neither pro Russia or Georgia,i am sure always with any dispute,there is six of these and half dozen of the other,i have been well informed with six of these by BBC ,but for the other half a dozen i had to watch Russia Today and Presstv.
    My question is ;Should i in future for other isues watch the mentioned TV for the other Half a Dozen ?

    And if that is the case should you change your name from British Broadcasting Corprations to Bias Broadcasting Corprations ?

    Sam Fairplay

  • Comment number 3.

    While I have seen an awful lot of analysis and criticism of Russia throughout our news, I have seen almost no critique of the actions of Georgia that triggered the conflict. Why are we so convinced of the righteousness of a country that moved to militarily subjugate a pratically autonomous province where referendums had shown that the overwhelming majority of the population favoured independence? While Russia's reaction was huge and disproportionate, it seems that the Georgian government was involved in an opportunistic power-grab in the area through military subjugation in the hope that it could get away with it. Maybe they thought Russia wouldn't be up for confrontation. Maybe they thought that they had enough powerful friends who would bail them out if they got into trouble.

    Nobody is clean in this conflict. Georgia and Russia are playing silly power games, and as usual in such incidents, it's the people who get caught up in the middle of it and suffer.

    But then, it is of course all Russia's fault. They are after all our bad-guys of the moment, what with all the Litvinenko business. Nobody is asking, "What the hell was Georgia playing at?"

  • Comment number 4.

    Sometimes reading these comments, you get the impression that the BBC is a monolithic, perpetually one-sided organisation, and I'm sure you'll get plenty of abuse on this particular issue, so just let me say thanks! As far I as can tell, the BBC has been as impartial as ever, and the standard of reported has been typically high. Keep it up!

  • Comment number 5.

    I was waiting to hear from you Jon as you are the one who lead all this coverage, really you are all doing a great job there, with the presence of Gavin Hewitt, Lyse, Nik, and all the others..

    Keep it up guys, I was wishing to hear more of the behind the scenes details on the crews and how you take the decisions by sending Gavin, Nik, and the rest of the teams.

    Hope to hear from you again soon with more talk that puts us in your editorial offices and thinking :D

  • Comment number 6.

    Separating fact from fiction in this matter is indeed difficult. Unfortunately the media in the west and in Georgia does not seem objective. Probably it is not objective in Russia either. Even the BBC does not seem entirely objective.

    But it does seem certain that Georgia began this affair by completely illegal airborne attacks together with ground based multi rocket launcher attacks on Ossetian civilians and others in Tskhinvali.

    I address the following point to Jon Williams, other bloggers, and other members of the BBC. On Radio 4 news early this morning there was a report from a member of a Western humanitarian organisation who had examined the evidence in Tskhinvali and reported very many deaths as the result of the illegal use of rocket launchers against a largely civilian Ossetian population. This report seems to have been suppressed and excluded from later BBC news programmes. Why? Please could the BBC respond, and give full details of this report and its source on this blog? A response by any other bloggers who heard it would also be useful.

  • Comment number 7.

    "We need to ensure balanced coverage."

    Yes balance would be nice. That would for example involve suggesting the US military acts brutally, not just the Russian military as the BBC has done in the past e.g.

    "Media coverage of the recent conflict is also far more restricted. That means the Russian military is free to act with much greater brutality."
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1292799.stm

    With regards to the current conflict...

    The presenter on Newsnight (11/08/2008) said...
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00czhc4/


    "The Russians are calling it a peace enforcement operation, it's the kind of Newspeak that would make George Orwell proud."

    It's funny because I don't recall the BBC ever talking about US operations in the same way. When was the last time the BBC called the phrase"Winning Hearts and Minds" Newspeak?
    Can we expect the BBC in future to suggest that US or UK official statements/justifications for war are Orwellian Newspeak or is this kind of analysis solely reserved for official enemies such as Russia?

    This is far from the only example of the "gloves coming off" when it comes to reporting on official enemies. For example, compare the clinical and dispassionate BBC reporting on the US assault on Fallujah with this BBC report on the Russian assault on Grozy in 1999 (very similar situations).

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/668080.stm

    "I had already witnessed the consequences of Russia's pitiless bombardment of its own citizens."

    "Grozny was once a city of half a million people. Now it is torn down, crushed and violated."

    "Of the hundreds of thousands of people who once lived here, but a handful remain, eking out a perilous existence in the fetid basements of crumbling housing blocs."

    "It is thought as many as 40,000 people may have still been in the city at the height of the inferno. How many of them were incinerated, crushed by falling masonry or shredded by shrapnel nobody yet knows. "

    "Moscow excused itself the trouble of worrying about such details by equating those who stayed on with terrorists. "

    "But it was no choice at all. Many were too old, too sick or too weak to move. Some never saw the leaflets telling them to leave and others did not want to go. Grozny was their only home."

    "Why should they go? By what right was the Russian army forcing them from their homes? So Russia could destroy what it itself dismissed as a handful of terrorists?"

  • Comment number 8.

    If the BBC really believes its coverage of the conflict has been impartial, then there is no hope.

  • Comment number 9.

    BBC is doing an admirable job of covering the Ossetian War. Where I am domiciled, I am used to the managed domestic and foreign political news spew out by local print and broadcast mdia. BBC is a refreshing source of information.

    Do not underestimate your audience, we know politicos being politicos will only make self-serving utterances to suit their aggendas.

    Based on your reports, there is no problem in picking out the hypocrisies from USA Bush and Rice statements. I even feel aghast at the 'grandstanding' posture of Saakashvili, (in his own words), a self-appointed Western democracies' foil to Russian Imperialism. And the very partisan and hysterical Georgian citizens can only goad Saakashvili further into stubbornness.

    Ossetians' insistence in rejecting Georgian dominance reminds me of the sympathy and empathy I felt for East Timorese fight for independence.

    Russia looks bewildered in trying to manage yet another border row which resulted from a hurried and chaotic break-up of the old Soviet Union. After decades of Russian domination, the affected smaller nations like Georgia, Poland, etc are looking more vengeful then thoughtful in managing their relationships with Russia.

    You got to be in the thick of the situation just to bring out the news from it. My best wishes to your reporters.

  • Comment number 10.


    So it was impossible to get reports from the other side - from torn down Ossetia? Is that why you put footages from destroyed Tshinvaly when ran reports about brutal bombings of Gori. And in the end it appeared that you got footage of the only building in Gori which appeared to be damaged?
    Yeah, keep it up guys - we love you anyway. At least you’re funny.

  • Comment number 11.

    minoan1:
    maybe because that news is still speculative and there is no information about battle itself? Destruction of the city probably came from Georgia answering to the fire of separatists, which, surprise, surprise, used peaceful citizens as cover! (Wow, where we have seen it?) There is NO evidence about deliberately violent action from Georgians. However, there are LOT of independent evidence about violence from separatists and Russian army in Georgia.

    I know lot of people in Western field feels like doubting any step of their governments and media, however Russia has lost any credibility, because there is no independent media (all media is owned by government or government owned entities), and military answer already says that they will justify with any lies what they have done. Believe me, Georgian solders probably have done some war crimes (as in any war), and it should be aim of any investigation, but in this conflict, I have strong opinion that Russia is a bully and South Osettians are just pocket puppies.

    StevenJMUK:
    Just wow. You clearly have no slightest idea about what truly Russian army brutality means. US army is children garden comparing to that. Russia claimed that it does "peacekeeping operation" while openly violent acts again peaceful citizenship came in from INDEPENDENT sources. Add South Osettians coming with their so called 'blood revange' and you get complete picture what it means. And comparing US in Iraq and Russia in Chechnya is very long stretch, because, well, it is different.

    StevieT28: Yawn. If they really wanted independence, they would already got it, period. 18 years aren't too much for illegal regime? Their referendums were illegal, and there were too many serious reports about denying Georgians to take active participation in them. And now they clean all Georgians out of South Osetia, as they did already in Abkhazia. In fact, they are too few to be serious independent, so all Russia wants is to annex this territories. They don't care about Osettians (North Osetia, which is in Russia, is crippled with corruption, low income, education, and crime), they just want these territories as safe guards that no one bypasses them in big East - West road.

    Anyway, I am not surprised that there is so big amount of negative comments on Georgia on BBC, because there are strange surge of "all-in-favor-for-Russia" commentators all over the world. This is so many people are delusioned or it is just part of invisible army - hard to say. Anyway, it is interesting feature.

  • Comment number 12.

    dr_horse: Hmmm, what should be impartial coverage then? :) Saying that Saakashvilli is a Hitler? :)

  • Comment number 13.

    No one seems to be pointing out that this problem begins and ends with the Russians. They involved themselves in the internal affairs of Georgia and stoked the fires of separaticm in these two break away regions. If not for Russian interference these regions would have been absorbed peacefully into the Georgian political landscape.

    Secondly, the Russians claim they are peace keepers, but please tell me what peace keepers take up sides. The Russians are now fighting against the Georgian on the side of these separatists. They can't be peace keepers if they aren't trusted by either side and should be asked by the UN to step aside for true peace keepers.

    Lastly, isn't it obvious that the Russians are focusing on a port in the Black Sea? They have a port in the Ukraine, but the Ukrainians want the Russian and their port out of there country. The Russians have ignored calls by the Ukrainian leader to not use their ports. They also want to control the oil pipelines to the Black Sea.

    It is all so very obvious what the Russians are up to and sadly I think the Europeans will roll over and let them take control of parts of Georgia because Europe needs Russian oil. The Europeans sat back once and watched Russia march into Eastern Europe and did nothing is that what we can expect from Europe again?

    I hope the free world stands together and give a collective NO to the Russians.

  • Comment number 14.

    The BBC coverage could be called everything but unbiased.

    There is no getting away from it, the BBC has become a tool of foreign policy and impartiality is not something which can be expected from such an institution.

  • Comment number 15.

    "Based on your reports, there is no problem in picking out the hypocrisies from USA Bush and Rice statements"

    I have yet to find any main western media going into detail on the USA hypocrisies. It is not being reported on at all.


    "It is all so very obvious what the Russians are up to and sadly I think the Europeans will roll over and let them take control of parts of Georgia because Europe needs Russian oil."

    It is so obvious what the USA are up to in regards to Iraq and I think the Europeans will over and let them take control of parts of Iraq because Europe needs Iraqi oil.


    Regardless, what exactly do you want Europe to do about it?

  • Comment number 16.

    Very nice how the first comment from "usdeeper" is centered around hatred for the US soldiers in Iraq attacking terrorists who target civilians.I thought this story was about Russia Invading Georgia? Its so funny how this person calls the West brainwashed when they cannot even stay on topic without criticizing another war instead. Funny how this Russian cannot even contemplate that his country invaded a tiny country that had not even least of a threat to it,overlooking the bullying and killing which has outreached the death level of Iraq on a per day basis.Not to mention the total useless need for invasion.I conclude this person is far more brainwashed than anyone he calls such and has far too much time defending this sickening powertrip shown by powergreedy bunch of inhuman communists.

  • Comment number 17.

    The statements of Georgian President Saakasvili are definitely not reliable statements of fact. He seems to be grasping at straws in his attempts to get the West to intervene.

    This is not, however, carefully planned propaganda; more like a desparate reaction to events. He's not setting out to lie, he's just not waiting for confirmation of the stories he is hearing.

    Russian propaganda is far more insidious. Whilst no serious observer could describe the Tskinvali attack as genocide, this "Cassus Belli" was all over the Russian media within hours of the conflict igniting, together with its suspiciously rounded numbers of casualties.

    I lived through the tail end of the cold war and have spent many years observing another Russian-sponsored enclave in Transnistria, Moldova. My experience in both of these conflicts was and is that the Russian leadership is masterful in twisting the truth to their ends, turning black into white and night into day (a charge they mischievously lay at Saakasvili's feet to deflect it from themselves).

    We simply cannot trust what they say without deep and independent verification.

  • Comment number 18.

    What can I say? You are liars or just puppets in the USA hands. You don't think about people lives.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am normally a great admirer of the BBCs impartiality and professionalism, but, alas, I feel thay you very critical of Russia and spend little time criticising Georgia, whom everyone agrees are the intial agressors. I wish you would properly investigate the initial attack and killings of peacekeepers and civilians by the Georgians and call for support for the South Ossetians whom everyone believes are morally justified in seeking independence. Please start criticising the real agressors - Georgia.

  • Comment number 20.

    It does seem that the propaganda war is being carried to this blog. Blatant hypocrisy from the Russians: attempting to justify their invasion of Georgia by saying "Well, the US did it first in Iraq!". Need I remind the Russians of Afghanistan and Chechnya?

    The way we see it in the west is this: Russia is turning back into the USSR under the tutelage of that old KGB agent Putin, and his cadre of hand picked minions. They seek to rebuild this artificial federation of states by invading nearby states.

    Georgia, on the other hand, seems like it is trying to take back Georgian territory from Russian paid separatists. Here in the United States, we fought a Civil War over separatists. I think we are likely to side with the Georgians, especially since they seem to be much less corrupt and much more democratic than the Russians. And a hell of a lot friendlier.

    As for the Europeans: they will continue to advance policies of appeasement (be placating and weak as they have been since before WWII.) It's back to the days of Brown and Sarkozy (vs Chamberlain and Deladier) placating the current European strongman/dictator (Putin's puppet) Dmitry Medvedev (vs Adolf Hitler).

    As for the Americans, of which I am one, our current administration has no moral high ground on much of anything, but the American people are not going to walk away, given our memories of German and Russian aggression last century, from this latest bit of muscle flexing by the Russians.

    Well, on second thought, if the Russians offer the US favorable oil contracts for the next 30 years, maybe we'll reconsider our position. Hmmm, Bushie, have you thought of that?

  • Comment number 21.

    No.15
    to usdeeper

    I do not need the Western Media to tell me about the 'hypocrisiies". I just use my South East Asian brain.

  • Comment number 22.

    This is a good article. As I research more about this issue, it becomes apparent how immediately the various politicians start spinning their 'accounts of events' in a way that supports their agendas. It is very frustrating, you really do have to go to several places, including sources in Russia, to get a balanced picture.

    An interesting aspect is Georgia being portrayed as a 'budding democracy' when we find news of dissent and protests being squashed there, and hear that this latest flare up is due largely to the Georgian Army's apparently brutal action against what are supposed to be the citizenry they are protecting! And, the 'breakaway regions' held *democratic* referendum to separate from Georgia.

    Meanwhile, what happened to Russia's status as 'budding democracy'? Seems like the elections they had there last were at least as valid as those in the US, whose media is largely echoing the Bush rhetoric.

    Clearly Russia is neither black hearted bad guy nor archangelic 'peace guarantor'. Neither is the Georgian governmentl blameless lambies-- 'supporting' an ally doesn't mean ignoring their blunders and brutality.

    Nonetheless, the EU and US need to work with them both with the larger vision of a better future for the world in mind. Let's hope the US is saying more meaningful things in private than the rhetoric in public.

  • Comment number 23.

    On another forum one "pro-Russian" blogger stated that Georgia was being funded by "the Jews".


    That pretty much sums up the Russian rhetoric right now. The evil USA and the Jews. We should treat Russia for what it really is, a descendent of 1930's Germany. Just because they were victims then, doesn't mean they've not become what they hated.

  • Comment number 24.

    As a US citizen, I agree with Samkaz. For a while I really liked the BBC news but am really disappointed with the increase in their bias reporting (and lack of information). Trust me, we get enough of that in America. Im hoping the British will be smarter than that.

    They mention nothing of the significance of the pipeline running thru Georgia that is of interest to both the US and the EU. If you really want to know the TRUTH of this conflict, look-up the significance of that pipeline. Thats whats of strategic interest to these countries (and of course, more power).

    When quoting President Bush, doesnt the BBC see the clear contradiction in his statements?? Because if the majority of the American people can now see he's full of crap, its strange that the BBC still speaks of Bush as if he's someone to be taken serious and has some credibility.

    I did notice, however, that this particular article is pointing out (very faintly) the dirty actions of both Georgia and Russia in the "civilian kills" dept..

    In the end, the Georgian, US, European Union, and Russian Governments can give a crap less about the civilians (who are caught in the middle of these power struggles), their main care is power. The civilian deaths are simply a bridge/excuse to power. Either way, the Human Ego wins.

  • Comment number 25.

    Will “separating facts from fiction” put us closer to the truth?

    How much do we know about this conflict from BBC? Do we know why two small nations in Georgia reject the Georgian government from the beginning of 90s? Did BBC bother to tell us? Do we know why the Georgian military wanted to destroy a town of Tskhinvali in South Ossetia?

    And how democratic is a government that was not elected by two nations in its own country or that bombed their citizens? Does pro-western orientation of any government make it democratic? (Has President Pervez Musharaff become a democrat at last?)

    We did see destruction in the Georgian town of Gori, but have we seen reports from Tskhinvali on BBC? We had to watch Euro news to see that.

    So, how much of “balanced coverage” have we got?

  • Comment number 26.

    Aleksander Solzhenitsyn who died last week mentioned ina pravda interview in 2006

    "Though it is clear that present-day Russia poses no threat to it, NATO is methodically and persistently building up its military machine into the east of Europe and surrounding Russia from the south"

    So when the US state department fellow leader of Georgia decides to attack the Russian populated semi-autonomous Ossetia it is not really a suprise to many of us. After all this is the Georgia who sent troops to Iraq as part of the coalition of the willing and which has been described as the 'second Georgia in america'.

    The BBC's coverage during this whole escapade has been its usual propoganda.

    I have seen no mention of the captured US delivered weapons arsenal, I am guessing the m-40 sniper rifle is 'humanitarian aid.
    There also seems to have been a constant repeat of GWB and his warning to Russia about attacking democratic nations, which I guess is going to make the democratic leader of Iran sleep happier as half the US fleet heads towards his couintry

    My favourite piece of bbc 'news' was your news24 correspondant Lyse Doucet reporting that Russia had attacked Abkhazia by sending troops into that breakaway republic, this was soon contradicted by another bbc reporter saying that the russians were protecting their own nationals in that area.

    Left hand/right hand no communication.

    The only thing the BBC has told me about this whole dispute is that they want us to blame Russia and have sympathy for the Georgians.

    As a final note Aleksander Solzhenitsyn praised Putin for his attempt to restore and protect Russias soverignty. James
    Rogers of the BBC stated, "there was significant irony in the fierce critic of Soviet repression being hailed by a former senior officer of the KGB.

    I think the Irony is that the BBC spend a few days praising the man for telling the world about Stalins Russia, then forget to mention his comments regarding present day Russia and the UN/Wests attempts to provoke war with them.

    In fact its not ironic at all, its just plain old propoganda

  • Comment number 27.

    dctomlinson, is this the same weak and placating europe that was fighting germany in ww2 from 1939, whilst the us was kind enough to give us loans with hugely inflated interest? back on topic, i think both sides have problems that need addressing with their conduct in this conflict, although i agree with most posters that the bbc does not seem to understand this

  • Comment number 28.

    Dear dctomlinson



    You are missing the point ,my disappointment is with so called free media,they keep telling us that they are impartial but i have not seen any evidence of that,they are as impartial as media in dictatorial countries,but the so called free media of the west are much much smarter the way the present them self to the public and even sometimes a cynic like me believe them,they don't lie to us but they don't tell us all the truth either.



    Let me just tell you one example:

    when the US ambassador to UN on the BBC news making a comment about Russia wants a regime change in Georgia ,i could not believe he was saying that ,doesn't he know the American politics ?they been doing that as long as i remember,1953 iran they got rid of Dr Mossadegh who was democratically elected government and so many more since ,but no media has reminded USA that is fat coming from them, but anything to do with countries such as: Russia ,China,Iran Arabs and Muslims they are a fare game to go for.

    When the so called free media treat America and Israel the same as those countries above then i believe you are impartial.





    I hope you get my point , i am not pro anybody or anti anybody

    I am pro justice and fairness for everyone and i anty double standard.

  • Comment number 29.

    To say that the UN/West is attempting to provoke war with Russia is an agenda-serving mischaracterization.

    There is nothing to gain from any kind of war with Russia, and in fact a prosperous and stable Russia is the best thing for all involved.

    But that prosperity needn't be acheived by blocking others' attempts to acheive it.

    The observation about pipelines is important. Who gets what revenue from which pipelines is at the centerpiece of these conflicts. The Western-bound oil flow from the Central Asian fields is what the West is trying to protect.

    In the larger Russia-West dialogue, there are two thorny issues: the flow of oil from Central Asia, and Iran. The more oil that Russia can ship through it's pipelines from the Caspian region, the better for it. Meanwhile, in order to open up the possibility of Western consumption, Kazahkstan made a significant investment in the Georgian terminal at Batumi.

    By making the Trans-Georgian routes of oil seem more fragile, the Russians become the 'more reliable shippers'.

    Russia is being very successful in acheiving a high degree of control over the flow of Central Asian oil-- on those terms, clearly their 'Oilman President' is beating the US' 'Oilman President'.

    The money spent, and principles cast aside, in the protection of sources of oil vs. applying money to alternative energy technologies while retaining those principles would be an interesting subject to hear reportage on: how many solar installations can be built for the price of a day's war in Iraq?

  • Comment number 30.

    Tell me please
    Who from normal people will give the order to attack the city with children and wemen of his own country ?!!!
    Saakashvilli told on local TV that Georgia are ready for negotiations with part of “his” country Osetia and you (people that were in this city) can sleep in peace . It was on Thursday .
    And after few hours at 00 on Friday night he ordered to bomb the city Chinvalli the capital of Osetia !!!

    I ask you one more time WHO CAN DO THIS ?!!!
    Could you inmagine this ?!

  • Comment number 31.

    The Beeb's doing quite a good job; CNN's doing it better. There is no 'impartiality' to be had at any price, in any conflict. The Russians are, however, tainted by their past record. The behaviour of their occupying troops in Germany, Hungary, Afghanistan and Chechyna makes the American 'scandals' look like the vicar's tea party. We can see it happening again in Georgia. Whatever the US's faults in combat, its forces have never included rape, robbery, mass destruction after occupation and general pillage in their military repertoire to the extent that the Russians have. To those who wish to point out parallels between Georgia and Poland, Czechoslovakia, and other countries, please consider the suffering and betrayal 'old Europe' has already experienced at Russian hands before you draw conclusions. Whoever started this particular spat, there can be no doubt that the Russians are exploiting the situation in a way unchanged since Czarist, let alone communist, days. What's different is press access. Since Viet Nam, the media have had their part to play in every conflict and their penetration increases with every country that embraces democracy. To accuse the Beeb (or any other broadcaster) of bias is nonsense. They're just on our side, most of the time, that's all.

  • Comment number 32.

    "We need to ensure balanced coverage"

    Now you made me laugh! The BBC has never ensured balanced coverage. Not now, not during the Iraqi invasion, not during NATO's bombing on Serbia and Kosovo... Never!

    It has always worked as an apparatus of state propaganda, brainwashing viewers with all sort of selected images, biased footing, and even faked reports (I still remember an alleged massacre in farm in Kosovo, which disappeared from the screens next day, for it was a crude mise en scene...).

    Showing Saakashvili so many times makes it apparent. As if the British government and the BBC needed to persuade the public into believing Saakashvili's hoax: No, the truth of the matter is that he perpetrated an ominous crime against peace with treachery and at the Olympic night, and for all unheard-of Bush show on sovereignty (Kosovo?), and invasion (Iraq?), what is done cannot be undone.

    Now we'll see if Saakashvili is tried in an international court. Perhaps if the BBC reported fairly there is a chance. Not so as a propaganda tool.

  • Comment number 33.

    Virtually all mainstream media outlets - including the BBC and those in Russia - have done a woeful job of remaining impartial. I expected no better from Fox, CNN and NTV in Russia, but the BBC also seems to have also just become another banal, biased voice in the bunch recently.

    Thankfully YouTube seems to remain fairly democratic and perhaps it will soon render mainstream editorial obsolete if they don't pick up their act.

    Despite this, problems may even exist there. Yesterday there was a tremendously popular video of a FOX interview with a 12 year old American girl who was caught in the initial Georgian attack, but escaped to confirm it's brutality and live on air she thanked the Russian troops for intervening to rescue her and her aunt (FOX cuts the interview short).

    The video received 126 000 hits in the first half an hour of posting, but is now mysteriously difficult to find on YouTube. A Russian station featured it on their nightly news earlier tonight and claim Google have removed normal search functions for this video. (Try searching yourself). Luckily, others have since re-posted it.

    Just goes to show, in the midst of all the hypocritical ranting in Beijing, the Western media too has it's own interests and bias.

  • Comment number 34.

    You're doing a great job BBC. Ignore the hand-wringers who seem to believe the Kremlin's state-run propaganda machine is more credible.

  • Comment number 35.

    years ago when i was young and naive I believed what i read in "news" outlets such as BBC. I know better now your and meny others so called "news" outlets are nothing but a complete sham designed to function purely as a propaganda tool of your puppet masters. i will not even attempt elaborate the countless occasions we you have not even tried to cover up your footprint these are many people here exposing you alredy already.

  • Comment number 36.

    I find it odd that no one has yet mentioned Kosovo. Why is it that the west cheered the breakaway of Kosovo from Serbia, yet supports Georgia in trying to prevent South Ossetia breaking away?

    Why did Russia crush Chechnya yet support South Ossetia?

    Everyone is a hypocrite and BBC reporting is no exception. Thank ggodness for satellite TV. By watching the BBC, CNN, and Russia today one can plot a path through what may really be happening there.

  • Comment number 37.

    If the Russians wish to regain the moral high ground let us see evidence of the 2000 dead South Ossetians they claim to be the justification for annexing South Ossetia and Azbkhazia?

    Otherwise, the only visible justification for the Russian disturbingly unnecessary use of excessive force is the destruction of Tskhinvali which is just as much likely to be caused by Russian munitions as it it by the stupid miltary adventure of the Georgians.

    As it happens, the propaganda war has now been lost by Russia and the Georgians have won a phyrric victory.

    All the anti-american cynical rhetoric within some of the previous comments is simply garbage and displays the mentality of some very sick minds or infantile naivety. The sort of minds that somehow existed in 1938/1939 and justified Hilter's annexation of Czechslovakia and the invasion of Poland leading up to World War II.

    With historians able to access German War Papers, we now know that the Germans not only pre-planned Czechoslavakia and the invasion of Poland but the German war-planners even thought Germany could get away with invading Poland in 1939 with the connivance of the USSR (Russia) and avoid World War by dividing Poland in half.

    The anti-US rhetoric in some of the comments responding to this blog item would be tantamount to condoning Hitler and calling the British and French reaction to those events back then hypocritical. Surely no one other than a neo-fascist or gullible child would think like that?

    What truly amazes me is some of the comments are from (apparently) US citizens who declaim their President when the first State to mention nuclear reaction was Russia threatening the nuclear targetting of Poland. If I were American I would want my President to act very tough with Russia as the ballistic missiles that Russia has are aimed at the US already!

    Someone has to walk tall and face down the Russians or the Russian bullyboy tactics will be a calamity we shall all come to regret. I applaud the current US administration for doing just that.

  • Comment number 38.

    Here is a example how russian soldiers treat civilians at Georgia
    http://pl.youtube.com/watch?v=gONOzTOO-6o

    Thats "peace keeping" ?

    Who is still thinking that US peace keeping is that same what russia is doing in Georgia

    For me that's exactly same scenario that russia used before at early 1990 at Abkhazia.

    If russia is a side in this conflict how it could be that they pretend to be peace keepers?

    And one more thing separatist from south osetia started this conflict, there was serval attacks on Georgian civilians at 6th of August around city of Cchinwali (with approval from russian peace keepers) Georgian forces involed in this conflict at 7th of august but all west-european news agencies are keep sending just russian version of this scenario why ?

    The next step of russia will be creation of new pro-russia goverment for Georgia so they need to destroy goverment of Saakashvili first and thats what they doing now.

    US are bringing opportunity to make a proper democracy for Iraq.
    And what exactly russia have to offer for Georgia?

  • Comment number 39.

    I am Russian living in St Petersburg.I was really shocked by all anti-Russian propaganda launched by the Western massmedia "regarding" the conflict in Georgia.Honestly it doesnt appear to me it was regarding the current situation in Georgia itself...Someone needs to have Russia as enemy again..I wonder who and what for..It is a fact that Georgia started bombing S.Ossetia who called for help to Russia and unleashed the war.Why Western reporters put so much one-sided information not based on all the facts in their reports?The answer is:someone needs it and PAYS it.I came to the BBC site to see comments and to get to know the opinions of British and American people,not those of their politicians.I am very nicely surprised that there are so many intelligent people over there (although there are many brainwashed by anti-russian propaganda as well) who are still able to see the truth even through the thick layer of hipocricy and partial one-sided information!Thank you!

  • Comment number 40.

    I think Russia is a country which can be responsible for decisions /
    Russia is not USSR /
    West should forget the USSR

    But US think about the cold war
    In Pekin Bush told to mr.Putin , that
    nobody needs war in Georgia !
    We saw it / trained by US soldiers atacked children with wemen !

    And now Bush told that
    Nobody wants the Cold War
    Do you understand what does it mean ?

    It's interesting but this conflict help to understand the tactic of Bush /
    He told things that he want to do BUT use special method , he told it like
    ...we don't want to do ...
    But actually does the opposite what he was saing !!!

    And exactly the same tactic uses Saakashvi
    During this days ALL what he was saying he was saying about he was doing !!!

    The more opposite he told - more dificult to us to understand what is going on !!!
    US administration teachs him how to make idi -ots from us !!!


  • Comment number 41.

    I am very happy with the coverage of the BBC during the continuing trouble in Georgia...

  • Comment number 42.

    Jon:

    I would like to thank the BBC for sending your excellent [all of them are]!

    *Nik Gowing
    *Gavin Hewitt
    *Lyse Doucet
    *Matthew Collin

    and all of the others, who i have not mentioned...

    including the staff in london.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    everyone here complaining how biased the BBC supposedly is should try watching CNN sometime ... THEN you will see bias at a ridiculous level

    i personally think that the bbc is, for the most part, good for unbiased coverage

  • Comment number 45.

    uglybag:

    You are completely right, the difference in attitude in the west between the Kosovo/Serbia issue and the Georgia/S. Ossetia issue is incredibly hypocritical.

  • Comment number 46.

    This conflict shown that west will do everything to protect themselves (US)
    They don't care about Europe .
    They don't care about small nations if they disturb them !
    They do not care about Osetians !

    We , people in Europe should clearly see it!
    If we don't we will be splited /
    and "enemies" will be made by US /

    Split and manage !

  • Comment number 47.

    Any claim of unbiased reporting from any news organization is a fantasy: it is always influenced by ideology, religions, commercial and personal interest, consciously or sub-consciously. The government reactions from Bush and the gangs to this conflict is in the interest of neither justice nor peace, but their own. Otherwise they would not have poured oil to the fire.

  • Comment number 48.

    To Zgr3doo:

    You are saying:"Us are bringing opportunity to make a proper democrazy for Iraq.And what exactly Russia have to offer for Georgia?"
    Is US establishing a democracy in Iraq?Are you SERIOUS?It is hard to believe someone still thinks like this.It is impossible to establish a democracy when your country is conquered and fully under American control.
    What US has to offer to Georgia is the same what they offered to Iraq.. And no doubt Saakashvili is not only in tight connections with Washington (By the way he got his education in the US and lived there for many years),but he fullfills the contract he has with Washington.

  • Comment number 49.

    Fact or fiction? I watched coverage of the incident described in the second paragraph by a Greek film crew. They said it was striking that there was no sound of aircraft before the explosion. How do we know that this was a Russian attack. Gori was meant to have been destroyed and yet the same film crew found it difficult to find ANY damage apart from broken glass and of course the damage in the main square.

    Remember the attack on the market in Sarajevo in the Bosnian war? At the time everyone assumed Bosnian Serbs were responsible and they were castigated. Much later and after a careful investigation by (I believe) the British Army the conclusion was that in the balance of probablities the round was fired from Muslim positions.

  • Comment number 50.

    Just wanted to say THANK YOU to people in the US and UK who despite all this wave of anti-Russian sentiment and incredible hypocricy have wisdom and common sense to see that there should be the other side of the story. Hatred only produces more hatred and people like Putin or Saakashvili benefit from it, because they have bodybags to fill. Don't be part of this machine. Today I read from Saakashvili's latest that Russians are "cold-blooded killers" and "barbarians" - he said that Georgia was now "looking evil directly in the eye". I'm Russian and I am NOT a barbarian. And my eyes are kind of normal blue color...

  • Comment number 51.

    Evil Russia. Rampaging Russia.

    That's how the Western oligarch or government controlled media describes Russia, condoning a genocide being waged by a Western puppet dictator.

    The Georgians have massacred 2.5% of the South Ossetian people in less than 2 days and left almost 30% homeless. Russia has taken in over 14,000 of the 80,000 Ossetans into North Ossetia and set up hospitals and camps for them. Thousands more stream out daily. Just this Sunday, 2,000 arrived on Russian buses and trucks.

    Russia has also freed the destroyed necropolis of Tkhinvalli, where bodies of women and children will be getting dug up for the next half year. Russia has also created a corridor for evacuation of wounded civilians, something the Georgians physically denied through artillery and sniper fire (even as they promised to honor the Red Cross' request).

    Russia's airforce has brought in giant hospital planes, set up a large hospital in Tskhinvalli and two more are on the way. There is also a call for up to a dozen surgeons specializing in child injuries. Humanitarian aid is also flowing in.

    And what has the "humanitarian" American response been? It has been an official call by the Bush criminal regime, for the Saviors of Ossessia to leave and allow the Bush vassal Saakashvilli to finish his American funded Genocide. This of course is no different than the US backing of Croatian vassals genociding Serbs in Kraina or Albanian vassals genociding Serbs in Kosovo.

    Shame on you America and shame on your people for tolerating such criminals in power. This will never be forgotten.

  • Comment number 52.

    Do I see too many conspiracies?
    1) Bush wants McCain to win the next presidential election .
    2) Russia is the old enemy.
    3) The USA has 1000 advisors in Georigia 'helping' their USA - educated President ( along with 1000 Israelis).
    4) McCain may well be losing to Obama.
    5) A Republican response to a Russian problem may well be a vote winner compared to a more measured Democrat response.
    6) Stir up a problem in Georgia, act and talk 'righteously' and wait for a Republican victory come November.
    Or am I too paranoid?

  • Comment number 53.

    Jon:

    it is nice that the russian general, was talking to the bbc in english via, the bbc moscow bureaux.....

  • Comment number 54.

    to serpentdanslherbe:

    It is obvious!!I

    It is a well-known black PR trick "creating an enemy".It helps making people in your country scare of "the dangerous world outside" when only a strong "leader"can protect them from "agressors".

    It is so sad to realise that everything is paid!!

  • Comment number 55.

    Russia has changed. It is not the same Russia that allowed ‘Iraq’ to happen. Bush on the other hand has not changed. The US President, known for his lies and deception faces a different and unexpected Russia.
    Bush instigated Georgian conflict without realizing the immaturity of the Georgian leadership. Georgia committed ‘Saddam like’ atrocities on the minorities.

    the American neo-cons are now afraid to face the Russian Military. What they did in Iraq cannot be repeated in Georgia because they face Russian Military and a confrontation with them will not be easy. It was one thing to bully an already weakend and sub-par Iraqi Republican Army, but to face the Russian Military is a different ball game.

    Russia could not even think of taking military action in Georgia because majority of American Military resources are spent in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Bush said the United States stands "with the people of Georgia and their democratically elected government." He said the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity "must be respected."

    "We will not cast them aside," he said.

    Bush said Russia's invasion of Georgia in recent days has "damaged its credibility."

    The problem is that American have NO credibility whatsoever to talk about ANYONELSE credibility after what Bush did in Iraq.
    Blatant aggression is not world diplomacy. But the ‘cowboy’ American President has set the standard for ‘Might is Right’ policies and precedences.

    Kicking Russians out of G8 or encompassing Georgia and Ukraine in NATO will not solve the problem. Americans with common sense must understand that Bush has demolished all respects for America in the world. ‘Bomb bomb bomb’ strategy of Bush-McCain against small countries like Iraq can go so far. But when the real challenge comes from countries like China or Russia, it is a different ball game.

  • Comment number 56.

    Of course the BBC acted and still does in a biased way against Russia. It acted like the Georgian President's propaganda outlet. Time and time again I saw the man speaking flawless English , saying the opposite of what had actually happened and I'm sure quite deliberately being allowed to get away with it. (Incidentally I believe that Saakashvili will be tried in some court in the future)

    For some reasons more than once it picked on a photo or quotation of suffering South Osettians in a paragraph or statement showing that the Georgians were suffering at the hands of the British. And as has been pointed out it picked out one block of flats which was hit when the Russians bombed an army base very near to South Osettia and proceeded to show it repeatedly ad nauseam.

    For an institution like the BBC biased info is very dangerous in the internet age. For example I watch live internet TV on www.russiatoday.ru very sharp and clear and I believe, although biased, less so than the BBC . I am tempted not to watch the BBC anymore.

    Without diverting from the topic I also believe that the BBC adheres to a sort of Politically Correct morality with its own Commandments. This morality is completely unknown to the non anglo-saxon world (these anglo-saxon countries incidentally might cease to be anglo-saxon because of the new morality) The PC Commnaments include "Do not criticize Moslems, Mohammed, Islam, Jews, blacks." And " By all means criticize and make fun of Christianity, Christians, Christ, Greeks, Italians, Germans, Spanish, Poles and
    Russians.

    As a Southern European my advice to Russians is not to feel despondent. After all the BRIC nations is where the action is, they have virile and successful leaders whereas the US will get one of two jokers as a president and the BBC, for all I know, might become, another little jewel in India's crown
    C

  • Comment number 57.

    Thats interesting !!!
    Now it's clear Who is mr. Saakashvilli and
    Who is Bush

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XI9jEMiUfFs

    This is the real story !!!
    Everybody should see this !!!

  • Comment number 58.

    DOWN WITH CRIMINAL WESTERN IMPERIALIST GANGSTERS and THEIR STOOGES.

  • Comment number 59.

    The BBC has consistently misrepresented the Russian position, whilst believing every lie uttered by President Sucko of Georgia.

    The BBC has never mentioned in its broadcasts that the US Government has paid for every last penny of the Georgian military operation, and has 130 "advisors" embedded in the Georgian Army at present.

    Today the BBC claimed that Russian units are "deep within Georgia". That's a stinking BBC lie. Gori - by your own admission - is 10 miles from the border, and remains the ONLY place where Russia has troops. That's because it's the main ammo-dump for the genocidal maniac who (remember? no, the BBC *don't* remember, or want to!) who BEGAN this conflict by a *rocket attack* on a civilian target!!

    As usual the BBC is deep in the pockets of the yanks, and you want to know why??

    http://www.bbcamerica.com

    That's why. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

  • Comment number 60.

    I think BBC has been a pawn of Russian propaganda when it came to this conflict. When I read AP and other new sources they clearly show the disproportionate force that Russia used on this tiny country.

    For months before this attack, Russians had violated Georgian airspace proved in a video, and cyberattacked the tiny country. Also, the rapid response by Russian forces gives an impression of a well thought out plan before the war started.

    One more bone to pick with BBC, how come you don't talk about Russians pillaging cities, barracks, and destroying Georgians airfield and harbors. Russians continuely went close to Tbilisi vicinity to spread panic, humiliating the country even more.

    Why doesn't BBC talk about Russians disliking the Georgian President that this war might be a possible way to get rid of Georgian opposition? Or Russia wanting to destroy the infrastructure of Georgia as a punishment for the friendship with US? Georgia was never a threat to Russia, its too tiny to do anything, but pounding them to obedience is the only way Russian leaders know how to rule.

    Maybe there's a reason Russians don't let the media in their territory, probably so that you can never prove that 2000 people died but after they fabricate them they send it straight to naive BBC.

  • Comment number 61.

    This week's Jewish Chronicle reports that 'close to 600 Israeli citizens ... were flown out on Tuesday on three specially chartered planes of El Al and Georgian Airlines' and that 'until recently, Israel has been selling arms and military training to the Georgian army'.

    As in so many other conflicts around the world, one might usefully ask what was Israel doing there, thousands of miles away from the Middle East and what part did she and/or her armaments play in Georgia's decision to confront Russia.

    Israel's political role in many countries, is one that needs examination.

  • Comment number 62.

    airspace86

    Are you telling us that when the USA invaded Iraq the force they used was proportiond and it is ok for America but no one else.

  • Comment number 63.

    dctomlinson writes:

    >Well, on second thought, if the Russians
    >offer the US favorable oil contracts for the
    >next 30 years, maybe we'll reconsider our
    >position.

    Well, my dear, about 2008 years ago this would be just 30 silver pieces. Inflation, I reckon...

  • Comment number 64.

    Dear BBC
    If you care to read all the people who have contributed to this blog,all we want from you is to stop taking side ,the only side you should take is the side of the public.

    we want from you the truth and facts about which ever confilicts or issues,equally proportiond.

    stop being a me too news agencey,and start thinking outside the box,we the public deserve better from you,on this note i wish you all the best.

  • Comment number 65.

    To all those critical of the BBC, I don't think anybody seriously imagines the BBC is perfect or unbiased, but they are the height of perfection and neutrality compared to virtually all other media sources. They have a long way to go, but what they have done is impressive, and true neutrality would involve barging blindly into the middle of battles and secure zones. I prefer to see news reporters breathing, and I think the BBC would agree with that. However, if you think more "at the scene" information would be valuable, they would probably be happy to accept the donation of heavily armoured carriers, spy satellites and surplus SIGINT technology.

    As for the war, both sides have done really stupid things that have senselessly cost the lives of innocents. Both sides have violated ceasefires at one time or another, for their own gain. Both sides have conducted information wars and acts of cyberterror against non-combatants. Both sides know that the patches of dirt they are fighting over are not the reason for the war, that this is a war of pride and ego, not resources. And both sides know that their leaders aren't the ones in charge - they have no authority except to rubber-stamp the edicts of the egos really running the show.

    What will finish this war? Bad blood means it'll finish only if Russia does attack Poland - they won't want to fight on two fronts, as that's generally a bad idea. I would put the odds of such an invasion at 50%, given the current atmosphere.

  • Comment number 66.

    2 pdlodge and others who seem to be not hopeless cases like dctomlinson, thinking though:

    >You're doing a great job BBC. Ignore the >hand-wringers who seem to believe the >Kremlin's state-run propaganda machine is >more credible

    Well, people, I regret to disappoint you... I have lived in the USSR long enough to learn how to see through the propaganda machine. I have also lived in what you think is "free democratic world" long enough (more than a decade) to fully experience its propaganda machine, too. It is in every respect as mighty and vicious as the one I used to hate back 20 years ago.

    BBC, though, is a puzzling case: it is paid by UK taxpayers and should be independent of the UK government by the UK constitution. Why does then it function similarly to the US commercial channels, which feed their "target audiences" whatever those like to see so as to increase the # of viewers and, correspondingly, ad revenue? Frankly, I do not know the answer. I would like just to add a brief (and one of many) illustration here.
    Aug 13, 9pm. I am watching russian TV1 (which thanks God is not yet forbidden in a free country). Foreign minister Lavrov explains at a press conference that columns of russian military are going to unguarded georgian military bases near Gori and Zugdidi to dispose of unsecured ammunition dumps left behind by georgian army. Note, this is 9pm russian news program, which was broadcast in russia 8 hours ago.
    An hour later, 10pm, switch to CNN. They show these same columns moving in the direction of these military bases as Lavrov just explained, and Anderson Cooper reiterating the question of the reporter on the scene: "where are they going? why are they going? we don't know..."
    An hour later, 11pm, - swithch to BBC world news. Now BBC correspondent shows the same columns and asks the same questions. He even asks this question of a truck driver - he tells "we just go, go, go...". BBC commentator leaves audience with the same question" where are they going? why?"

    Well, Jon, it seems indeed hard to get hold of facts from russian side. You have to sort of listen to what they say at a press conference - life threatening experience :)

  • Comment number 67.

    I apologize to everybody if I have annoyed you - here is the 3d comment I post this eve, but this is the last one. It is about causes of armed conflict escalation and this "disproportionate use of force" cliche.

    Forget everything else - I am not buying 2000 dead civilians etc propaganda (although there has likely been more than few dousains). Just think of a russian batallion, which was stationed there in South Ossetia (under a formal US mandate, BTW), and which was attacked on Mr. Saakashvili's orders by a vastly superiour and outnumbering georgian army, using heavy armor and artillery and sustained more than 10 killed and more than 100 wounded. Russian soldiers were following their orders, holding to their position. Consider just this fact alone. Now, imagine, God forbid, Cuban army would undertake such venture in Guantanamo. Or North Korea in the demilitarized zone on South. What woud be the "proportionate" response? Killing a dousain of theirs and wounding another hundred? No, the proportionate response would be dispossessing them of a military capability to afford this in the future, if possible. This is exactly what russians did in Georgia.

    If a policeman is attacked with a knife, should he have to respond also with knife because it would be "disproportional" to us a gun?

  • Comment number 68.

    Samkaz, America was founded with guaranteed fundamental human rights, and is a thriving democracy. You can name some isolated cases otherwise and I'll name them with you, but don't think for a minute US does not recognize a disproportionate force used by a brutal country upon a tiny country. Call the evil by its name! Russia does not have the same standing as America does. A country that has for years suppressed its own people, controlled the media, blackmailed his neighbors, and distributed all the country's wealth to few oligarchs, will never ever have the same integrity that US has.

    So call US hypocrite but don't deny justice from poor Georgians who were abused unnecessarily to achieve Russian's dirty plan for its neighbors.

    anything that happens in the world is blamed on Americans and Jews. America was scrutinized and scorned for so long about Iraq, its getting a little bit annoying. Nevertheless I'll fight for your right to say it. But please when Russia does the same don't spend your energy on hating US, but condemn Russia justly, just as you did with US. Just like US deserves criticism, Russia deserves it and deserves a lot of it NOW.

    So BBC can emphasize all it wants that Georgia started all this, but if it was intelligent enough and solve the puzzle, it would understand that it was all Russia's game and trap. Maybe looking at the broader perspective wouldn't hurt, and I think it's a big part of giving an unbiased report.

  • Comment number 69.

    The initial investigation by Human Rights Watch of deaths in Tskhnivali during the war quotes a doctor at the only hospital saying that they have processed 44 bodies, including military personnel.

    The Russian leadership has lied to the world and to its own people about the event that triggered their intervention.

    Russia has also lied about the refugee crisis in N Ossetia by maintaining that there were 30,000 refugees. According to HRW, quoting Russian records, just over 24,000 S Ossetians sought refuge in N Ossetia on the first day of the conflict. Over 11,000 of these returned to S Ossetia a day later, following the Russian tanks and keen to participate in the conflict. Only 13,000 remained as at the date of the HRW visit.

  • Comment number 70.

    airspace86,

    You are probably wasting your time. People believe what they want to believe and anything else they hear or see is propaganda.

    Even during World War II when Hitler and Germany had conquered half of Europe there were Vichy Frenchmen and apologists all around the world suggesting that Hitler and the Germans were on the side of right and Great Britain and Churchill were the warmongers.

    Even in 1939 the Russians agreed by Treaty with the Germans to divide Poland in the event of warlike complications knowing full well that Germany had every intention of warlike complications.

    The Russians were cynical about freedom and democracy then and they are as cynical about democracy and freedom now.

    Despite all the puerile rhetoric from the anti-Americans who seem to crawl out of the woodwork when given opportunities such as this Blog entry . . . I for one am willing to stand up and say Thank God for the Americans.

    Europe is a hopeless case but Europe needs America far more than it likes to admit and most Europeans who form the silent majority in Europe are glad to be allied with the USA through NATO.

    Somebody has to walk tall and tell to a bully to leave off or face the consequences.

    Anything else is just simply cowardice or an exercise in futility believing that a bully will simply go away.

  • Comment number 71.

    I will stay away from the actual conflict and comment on the news coverage.

    Journalists have again driven into the middle of a war and been surprised when they got shot at.

    Is it surprising?

    Notably there is no talk of prosecuting Russian soldiers for war crimes for shooting reporters who drive in front of them in the middle of a battle. This contrasts markedly with the criticism of US troops who shot the ITN reporters in the middle of a fire fight in the Iraq war. Likewise when an Israeli tank round killed a reporter in Gaza. On both occassions the media labelled it as a 'war crime' and called for criminal prosecutions.

    Should you be more critical of US or Israeli troops who kill reporters? Is this saying that different armies operate on different laws and conventions of war?

    I think the reporters are very brave and dedicated. But this is obviously dangerous and at they do it at their own risk.

  • Comment number 72.

    people about us nobody believes journalists
    I am looking for Internet access
    Deceiving the World with Pictures:
    http://www.byzantinesacredart.com/blog/2008/08/deceiving_the_world_with_pictu.html

  • Comment number 73.

    Hello West. I’m Russian. I take hard the war. Sure you know what the truth democracy is much better, Russians probably are not able to understand the democracy. So I hope you could explain me some issues. Please correct me: an article is impartial if it describes different sides. An article is partial if one of the side has got priority description. Let’s look to today’s article “Russia 'will abide by ceasefire'” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7564776.stm. I counted how many times different persons are cited:

    Saakashvilli 5
    Bush 6
    Rice 4

    Lavrov 2
    Medvedev 2

    UN officials 2
    EU officials 1
    Georgian officials 1
    Russian officials 0

    You may see that there are 2 citings from Russia side and 19 citings of the contrary side. I hope there is at least one article on BBC which contains more facts from Russian sources and more opinions from Russia than from Georgian+US.

    The next thing I’d like to mention is an informational leak in this article and btw in all the articles on BBC. The night before Russia sends its troops into South Ossetia there was a UN Security Council session in New York. The session was called by initiatve of Russia in order to call Georgia to stop the fire. The result was a silence.

    In this connection, I rewrote 2 paragraphs of the article in order to increase reliability. Could you please tell me my mistakes in facts. Initial text is enclosed with brackets.

    ---------------------------------------

    [The crisis began on 7 August, when ] Georgia started operation ‘reconstruction of constitutional order’ (as Georgian officials said), [Georgian forces launched a surprise attack to regain control of South Ossetia, which has had de facto independence since the end of a civil (ethnic) war in 1992. ]

    Georgian heavy artillery fire on S.Ossetia capital Tshinvally and assaults Russian peacekeepers camp. Russian officials said 10 peacekeepers were killed. The same night, UN Security Council had a session by Russia’a initiative. But Security Council did not appeal Georgia to stop the fire.

    [In response to the Georgian assault, Moscow sent armoured units across the border into South Ossetia to intervene.] While Russian troops was moving to Tshinvally, Security Council had the second session but without any result again.

    ------------------------------------

    I’ll be grateful for any constructive comments. Because I’m Russian, I know very well what the propaganda is. This is why I search many different informational sources. This is why I prefer facts to opinions. Thank you.

  • Comment number 74.

    Just to add to what Egor_Ny was saying,

    when the russians got to the base near gori they found an arsenal of US made weapons.

    Anyone who thinks that there was no connections between georgia and the US/Nato before this week has to have been living with there head buried in the sand or has been purely relying on the BBC for the recent history.

    This whole thing is a set up from start to finish. Georgia provokes the russians into action, knowing that Uncle sam and friends can then denounce the russians for an unprovoked attack on a soveriegn nation and send more of their troops and weapons of war into the region.

    Lets remember before this we had the US training the georgian army and now we have a 'legitimizing' of the need for the US missile defense shield around Russia.

    From reading this blog the BBC has done their propoganda job very well.


  • Comment number 75.

    I'm sorry for a mistake in my previous comment, there should be '4' instead of '2':

    You may see that there are 4 citings from Russia side and 19 citings of the contrary side.

  • Comment number 76.

    International Court of Justice set hearing of the case of Russia's military actions during the war in Hague September 8.

    This information was published several hours ago in Russia. It is not published yet neither on BBC nor on CNN.

  • Comment number 77.

    Alla_Moscow @73 and umpteen times after that!

    Great news abot the citings.

    It means the west is winning the propaganda war and Russia is coming a distant second.

    I guess your missing 2000 South Ossetian corpses are the main Russian problem! Without the evidence to show the world Russian propaganda just looks like "smoke and mirrors" and the puerile excuse it was to be used in first place. The Russian ability to mobilise the military so incredibly quickly and venture into Georgian territory as an invasion force was not only astounding but actually means the Russian were ready to enter Georgian territory BEFORE the Georgian attempt to enter South Ossetia.

    This link is to Human Rights Group challenges Russian Casualty Figures . . . . .44 bodies in the morgue and less than 300 wounded does not even start to appoach even the revised figure of 1600 deaths alleged by Russia to have been inflicted by the Georgians. I trust this article because it is equally critical of the Georgians but Russia cannot be excused from using excessive force ( and not like a police gun versus a mugger's knife but more like a tank versus a knife for those people stupid enough to try and draw any analogy of the use of necessary force!) nor can they be excused from lying to the world about their real motives for attacking Georgia.

    I'll believe the BBC reporting much more than I would any 'truth' emanating from Russia - Russian truth is just sheer hypocracy!

  • Comment number 78.

    President Dmitry Medvedev stated that his country's goal was "to force the Georgian side to peace", and that he "must protect lives and the dignity of Russian citizens wherever they are."

    Quote from Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko, Russian Passport holder resident in London, England, "......". Killed 23 November 2006 by polonium-210 radiation poisoning administered courtesy of the Russian KGB in London.

    Question. Can anyone else spot the Russian hypocracy?

  • Comment number 79.

    Menedemus. Thank you for the reponse.

    From your post I see you affirms bbc publishes propagandistic articles informational leaks. I see you prefer bbc's propaganda to Russian propaganda. That's ok.

    propaganda = desinformation + emotions

    Me too, I think, Russia was ready. Secret service had worked well.

    About 2000 civilians - I don't have the facts. I don't beleive to 2000. But that HRG report is not final yet.

    The article you referred contains and other important fragments as well:

    "We are very clear that some of the weapons fired by the Georgians are unacceptable under international law," she said.

    "The use of the Grad rocket launcher in urban areas is indiscriminate by nature and a breach of human rights law. Several rooms of the hospital were hit by Grads."

    I find infowars.com contains more truth than bbc. But I don't beleive them completely as well.

  • Comment number 80.

    Alla_Moscow @ 79

    You forgot to mention a quote just few more lines on:

    "We saw looting with our own eyes, they were taking household items, loading electric heaters, bicycles and carpets."

    I'm sure you read it but just forgot to mention that item as you saw the value of highlighting the Georgian misdeeds. Just oversight I am sure. Or perhaps you were just teasing us?

    Perhaps, desire to apportion blame to the Georgians is why Russians perhaps see their own actions with rose-tinted spectacles?

    The problem with propaganda is that if people are fed enough drivel and puerile nonsense they start to believe it is true. The only escape is choice and where people CAN make a choice they generally migrate to listen and watch news reported by the organisation or country they have most faith in. BBC Free Press is winning the argument and free people throughout the world will prefer BBC reporting to Russian bulletins leaving Russians to be isolated and seen as pariahs. It was Russia's choice to go this route.

    The fact is that the Russian's claimed that 2000 South Ossetian deaths were caused by Georgian troops yet, after the Georgians were forced into a retreat, the Russians have marauded at will inside Georgia destroying buildings and infrastructure (including today, the main east-west railway bridge) up to and including the day after Mevdev had agreed the Truce with Georgia . . . . that is indiscipline on a grand scale and the evidence from Tskhinvali collected by Human Right Watch on the ground PLUS their evidence gathered of atrocities commited in Georgian territory in the past couple of days will provide the prima facie case that Georgian claims for crimes against humanity by Russia will be be having heard at the International Court of Justice on 8-10 September.

    If we can agree that you don't trust the BBC but I don't trust Russian propaganda, we start to make an understanding. If we can both trust Reuters then we can see that neither Georgia nor Russia have behaved very well in this international crisis.

    I think we can safely say that Georgia has pretty much been punished by Russia for the atrocities that Russia feels Georgia has been responsible for. How would you like to see your country now punished for the use of excessive force, allowing the uncontrolled looting of Tskhinvali and probably the unnecessry deaths of journalists and other innocents well within Georgian territory?

    I am sure you agree that Russia has been as equally overzealous as perhaps the Georgians were and two wrongs do not make a right!

    Of course, I don't expect Russia to shoulder any such blame whatsoever! Russians are all innocent angels and just like the Germans of 1939, when Germany invaded Poland on the pretext of the "Gleiwitz incident" (secure in the knowledge that they had USSR/Russian permission to do so despite a Russian-Polish Treaty of Mutual Defence).

    The Germans were only reacting to Polish aggression was the propaganda story. Just a few weeks later the USSR/Russia also invaded Poland to carve Poland in two and destroy even the name of Poland.

    Russia plays the blame game just like the Germans of 1939 but it is all lies, smoke, mirrors and subterfuge. You believe that Russia is right; I think that Russia has become a State-led Economy and your leaders are nationalist bullies who will lead Russians to their ruin - just as Hitler and his cronies did to their beloved Third Reich in 1945.

  • Comment number 81.

    To the Russians who have commented on this board, thanks: as long as we're willing to ask questions-- and especially as long as we're willing to make each other chuckle a bit-- we'll get to the kernel of truth.

    I still think the BBC has very useful coverage, for the simple reason that the British have less of a direct vested interest in what's going on, and as part of the EU they can let us know what the thinking is in that region.

    Because, clearly, the rhetoric of Georgian leaders is inflammatory, obfuscating and self-serving, the rhetoric of US leaders lacks credibility, is agenda driven and formulaic, and the rhetoric of Russian leaders is obfuscatory camouflage and crowd-pleasing bombast.

    Somebody said 'if I were an American, I'd want my leadership to act...'. Actually, I don't want my leadership to act unless absolutely necessary. I want them to be keenly discerning, to speak effectively and truthfully, and to plan with extraordinary insight-- like the eagle, understanding the situation from far above with acute focus, swooping in accurate fury and effect only when really needed. Which, obviously, has not happened here.

    I think I speak for many, many Americans if not the majority, when I say we are sick and tired of myopic, feuding hillbillies (whether they be hill-dwelling, valley-dwelling or desert-dwelling) and their idiotic, interminable ethnic grudges, and that we perceive this as just another flavor of that.

    Russia needs to get back to their #1 priority, the establishment of a non-corrupt and effective economic atmosphere. The West needs to get back to their #1 priority, establishing the next generation of economically viable, eco-friendly, renewable energy technology.

    Yes, it is frustrating. How about put a huge iron pot-lid on these idiotic feuding hillbillies? Clearly they should not be allowed to travel into the civilized world.

    Then lift up sometime later and blow away the ashes of their stupidity.

    Yes, I am frustrated.

  • Comment number 82.

    mechanoidMike @ 81

    That is the kind of isolationist drivel that meant that in two previous World Wars America came late into the battle to defend the world against bully regimes.

    The power to avoid all this confrontation lies entirely with Russia but if there is to be continued confrontation then all your whispering in the dark, "I am not afraid of the dark" will not protect you.

    If you think, were Russia to continue along this recent 19th/early 20th Century path to European Domination of the democratic nations that adjoin Russia, that America will not get involved then you are extremely ill-informed.

    The fact is, that as of yesterday, Poland realised it had more to lose by not having American support and, heaven forbid that Poland is attacked and calls upon it's allies to assist it under the Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, all NATO members must put forward immediate response - this includes the USA.

    Unlike the previous two World Wars where the USA's biggest enemy on your soil was the dreadfully mistreated US citizens of Japanese descent - The US has never been and was not then seriously at risk of invasion or real attack.

    Wake and smell the coffee my peacenik friend - the first you're going to know of death is when Russia sends you some "pleasant surprises" as Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a top Russian officer, highlighted Russia's anger with the Interceptor Missile system that will be deployed in Poland, saying that Poland was now at risk of attack, perhaps with nuclear weapons. If you don't think that NATO will respond with massive nuclear reply to such attack, I am feeling somewhat sorry for your naivety as the Russian Ballistic Missiles are already trained on the USA.

    Of course, while you carry on feeling holier than thou you can sun yourself and have that healthy tan you've always wanted but the Geiger counter next to you might be a bit noisy and I think the 'green' agenda you suggest the "West" and it's hillbillies should follow will have a lot of ground to make up!

    In the two World Wars of the 20th Century, Europe was very frustrated with American isolationism. Unfortunately, isolationism will not protect America this time around. You're as likely to be burnt toast as the rest of us.

    on the other hand appeasement and a desire to not get involved is merely being someone who feeds a crocodile with meat hoping that they will be the last to be eaten. (As Winston Churchill quite rightly told the world after the disgraceful Munich Agrrement of 1938 - ceding the most democratic country of Europe at that time into the Third Reich without the Czechoslovakians even having a say!)

    Unfortunately, I don't think America can afford to take that view in the realpolitik of today. Americans can be radiated just as easily as Europeans.

    Best, we all exert political pressure on Russia to pull away from use of extraordinarily excessive military force as it has used in the past week and returns to dialogue, discussion and profitable agreement with Europe and America.

    Otherwise, your frustration with me and my 'kind' will only be a hollow echo of my frustration with stupid people who think the world is some kind of hippy festival with everyone wearing flowers in their hair. If we are alive. Doh!!

  • Comment number 83.

    Few other points for people whose brains are willing to think. There are two important issues raised by the BBC and other media coveraget of this war.

    (i) The question of journalist's ethics, requiring to deliver thuthful information. Basically, this was totally discarded by most of commercial "western media" as well as bythe BBC.
    This could be highlighted by the BBC and others showing Saakashvili's erroneous statemetnts such as "russians bombed Tbilisi International Airport", "russians bombed oil pipelines", "russian army is deliberately targeting civilians", most of which were later independently verified to be untrue. Now, in the US if a paper publishes a statement of that nature, it has to provide readership with its official denounciation later on - usually, it is just a brief disclaimer of the sort "those things that we have informed you of earlier appeared to be incorrect". Why have not BBC delivered such "retractions" of information it provided, which appeared to be incorrect? At least on the web site? Perhaps, it would be useful to have an "information follow-up" disclaimer section of BBC website, which would summarize all such "retractions"? It seems to be BBC's obligation to address in this way all the info they feed us with. Reader's access to these "retractions" would enable easy evaluation of the credibility of the source(s) of information and therefore reduce the impact of propaganda on our bombarded brains.

    (ii) BBC certainly failed to provide access to important relevant information. Perhaps, most outstanding is omission of UNSC transcript No. 3 from July, 18 available on www.securitycouncilreport.org, its discussion on http://www.innercitypress.com/un1geokos070808.html is also quite enlightening.
    Very relevant factual information of the events preceeding present conflict can be found on the Georgian site civil.ge,
    http://www.civilgeorgia.ge/eng/article.php?id=17362
    http://www.civilgeorgia.ge/eng/article.php?id=18730
    http://www.civilgeorgia.ge/eng/article.php?id=18728
    Not only has BBC failed to deliver this relevant background information, it has also missed (deliberately?) the chance to request the relevant current information from the UK and US military available via modern satellite imagery - such as the scale of destruction of civil and military infrastructure in Georgia and South Ossetia, russian troop numbers in Georgia, etc. - plain numbers and facts, which would substantiate (or not) claims made from either side. Note, Jon, that providing this information coverage would not put your correspondents in harms way (in USSR, though, this would jeopardise their careers -unbiased info might be against the "party line").

    (iii) As for opinion coverage - I think many people have addressed this before. I am only wondering, why have not BBC interviewed (or at list cited from the interviews others did) people knowledgeable about the issues of this conflict - former Georgian president and Saakashvi's mentor Shevardnadze, or Nobel Prize winner Gorbachov? These old people certainly have nothing to gain by lying and twisting the facts?

  • Comment number 84.

    Paul Reynolds' piece
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7562611.stm
    is outrageous. Whereas another BBC report qualifies the allegations of Georgian refugees as unverified, the allegations of Ossetian refugees are "evidence" for Reynolds. He also takes a select quote from Human Rights Watch to argue that the Russians are victims of a "propaganda war". Never mind that Tom Parfitt of the Guardian quotes Human Rights Watch's Anna Neistat as saying "The torching of houses in these [Georgian] villages is in some ways a result of the massive Russia propaganda machine which constantly repeats claims of genocide and exaggerates the casualties. That is then used to justify retribution."

    According to Reynolds, "The Bush administration appears to be" behind the "mud" being thrown at Moscow and THIS ISN'T EVEN MARKED AS OPINION/EDITORIAL?

    BBC editors should read this post by the editors of the Washington Post and have a big re-think about their coverage of this war:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/15/AR2008081503319.html

  • Comment number 85.

    "The Russians are calling it a peace enforcement operation, it's the kind of Newspeak that would make George Orwell proud."

    Well, russians seem to have picked apart georgian army's military ability to wage war for quite some time to come. This certainly is a factor enforcing future peace, not war.
    Now, there are sinister villains there in Kremlin who want to occupy Georgia? Please, turn on your brain - we have seen on TV that over the last several days after russians declared end of fighting with georgian army they were freely moving aroung Georgia. Would there be sinister plan to occupy this country and/or militarily topple Saakashvili - they would have done so some time ago. If they are real villains, they would not even care that Georgian Commander in Chief moved the remains of the georgian troops and armor into his heavily populated capital city. Real villains and war criminals do not care of collateral. Apparently, russians don't want to do this. As I see it, their goal is indeed to just cripple Saakashvili's military capabilities so that he can't repeat his order of Aug. 7.

    On another note - I am extremely curious what is the real number of russian troops and armor in Georgia. US and UK military certaiinly have rather accurate estimates (I am sure their satellite imageryprovided better estimate than simply "disproportional").
    Jon, BBC - please, interview your British/"west's" military people, provide British and other people with an access to this information!!!

  • Comment number 86.

    To bdell555 et al

    People, PLEASE, do you have BRAINS to think of what you say:
    >massive Russia propaganda machine
    which constantly repeats claims of genocide and exaggerates the casualties. That is then used to justify retribution.

    Man, do you really think they were just sitting there in SO watching that massive russian propaganda on their plasma TVs and then started rampaging georgian villages after seeing news cast? They have no TV's! Could you perhaps admit that it is you who is brainwashed by massive propaganda coming out of your 60" plasma or LCD?

  • Comment number 87.

    The Russian Propaganda Machine is targetted at the domestic Russian audience, many of whom do enjoy the benefits of 21st Century living including watching bulletins that justify incursion into a sovereign state tainted with Kremlin propoganda. Russian propaganda reminds me of the KISS principle - to target it at an audience, propaganda must be delivered by Keeping It Simple for the Stupid! I'm sure Russians can cope with understanding that. The South Ossetians don't need to be misled - they already think Russia is wonderful.

    I am sure the Russians have lapped up the propaganda but they are mere pawns in the Kremlin stategy.

    Maybe there are so many Russian citizens who realise that the Kremlin news is lies and more lies so they visit the BBC website to see what people in the West actually think of their bullying and threatening military marauding around Georgia after the Peace Accord has been signed.

    I think many Western Governments will be extremely sceptical of any Russian withdrawal from Georgia until it happens and even if Russian forces do return to the pre-incursion baseline, Russia's credibility as a trustworthy partner of the West has been seriously jeopardised.

    I think Russia can now, for the immediate future, forget being a member of G8 which will revert to G7 and travel facilities to the West will become much harder to obtain for Russian Diplomats and Goverment officials.

    All this brought down upon the heads of Russian Citizens by a bullying and threatening Russian Government and Military.

    The Russian military have been utterly stupid and utterly contemptible in their brutality of the Georgians!

  • Comment number 88.

    Egor, they most certainly got the word out, they even got that "figure of 2000 dead" that Jon Williams is wringing his hands about on FOX!:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8XI2Chc6uQ

  • Comment number 89.

    to bdell555, post #88:

    Please, read my post #67.
    As for #85 - I would like to emphasize, if you have not understood. It is not somebody's opinion(s) and/or unsubstantiated claims that we the people need to know. It is the cool numbers. The real numbers. Official numbers, be it even reliable estimates of US/UK military. Satellite pictures taken by their military satellites. Things to make my own opinion, not relying on that of the "talking heads".
    There is no point of bitching about the # of civilian casualties - I believe that russian "official" number of 1,600 was an estimate of a KGB analyst(s) based on what he(they) knew of the situation, most probably exxagerated, and in no way reliable. And there will be no reliable numbers for some time to come - although I hope they will eventually come out. In fact, the exact number does not really matter - I ahgain would like to refer you to #67, and #85. Be it couple of dousains, couple of hundreds or couple of thousands, given the indiscriminate nature of targeting city with GRADs (do you understand what GRAD is and how it performs, BTW?) shown on BBC on Thursday's eve as a backgroung to Saakashvili's statement that he is conducting a police operation (here BBC was indeed quite bold and informative), even a douzen of civilian victims is certainly enough to indict him in Hague. Arguing that "others (Putin/russians, or some argue Bush/Blair and their troops) behave the same way" is of no value. Argument that a criminal should not be indicted because others are still on the loose is total rubbish.

  • Comment number 90.

    see lunar eclipse... right now

  • Comment number 91.

    Egor, do you understand what a cluster bomb is and how it performs?
    http://www.humanrightswatch.org/english/docs/2008/08/14/georgi19625.htm

    I gave you a link there, to the Washington Post, that might help you with your "need to know the numbers". It refers to a WSJ story http://www.wsj.com/article/SB121874784363742015.html
    and a HRW report
    http://www.humanrightswatch.org/english/docs/2008/08/13/russia19620.htm
    that discuss the numbers.

    In any case, my problem isn't with you. It's with editors like Reynolds who, while an Ossetian refugee's allegation of "2000 killed" is going out over FOX, practically the citadel of conservative American mass media, is reporting the "news" that Russia has "los[t] the propaganda war"!

    While Reynolds takes Georgia's fledgling communications to task for daring to draw analogies with Prague in 1968 or Budapest in 1956 ("The comparisons did not fit the facts"), the global edition of the New York Times says that today "Russian armor ... travel[ed] nearly to the edge of the Georgian capital", a move that "opened a new security vacuum between Gori and [Igoeti], creating fresh targets" for "looters and armed gangs in uniform - many of them apparently Ossetians, Chechens and Cossacks - [who] have operated behind the army's path, ransacking villages..."
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/08/16/europe/16military.php

  • Comment number 92.

    The Russian "peacekeepers" failed to pervent attacks on Georgian villages from within Ossetia. Russia also shot down Georgian reconnaissance aircraft - as show on this web site last month and yet the BBC has taken the (unfair in my view) position that the Georgians "started" this conflict. This is untrue, and without going back to the 13th century for the roots of "who started what" it does seem that more reference should be made to the abuse by Russia of its "peacekeeping" mandate in Ossetia. Why are the Russian government representatives not challenged on this point when interviewed by the BBC? Have they insisted on this question not being to to them if they are to accept interviews on the BBC? A Russian regime that states it will be justified in mounting a nuclear attack because of the deployment of a defensive shield in Poland must surely have demonstrated to all but the most naive that this Putin led junte has retained the same aggressive, intolerant, self-serving agenda toward its neighbours that has coloured its foreignh policy for generations. The time is at hand for Europe and the US to show greater resolve and give Moscow a precise time and date by which to get out of Georgia. If that time frame is not honoured NATO should (as an opening position) offer forces to Georgia in order to retake their sea port. Putin leads a totalitarian junte that knows to well the West has grown "lazy and fat" - like the Romans in the latter days or their Empire - and that we fear confrontation with Russia. Is our way of life worth defending, and is democracy worth defending on the borders of Russia or only west of the old Iron Curtain?

  • Comment number 93.

    While Jon Williams is throwing his hands up about the "impossibility" of debunking the "figure of 2,000 dead", it's gone viral on Youtube courtesy of the FOX clip (abetted by allegations of FOX censorship) and is presently raging through the blogosphere like Ossetians through Georgian villages.

    I suppose the western MSM's abandonment of its gatekeeper role is a fitting parallel to the role the west has played concerning the gates to Georgia.

  • Comment number 94.

    Hi everyone. Despite all its biases remember at least the bbc is offering us this opportunity to discuss the news live, which is commendable. And it is good to hear all of you, a group of respectable and educated adults discuss it. I'll be honest with you, ive never been Georgia or South Ossetia, and the nearest ive ever got to Russia is my old college teacher.
    But something isnt right here. Each side blames the other with the conviction of honesty and righteoussness which immediately makes me suspect...

  • Comment number 95.

    to KGM1957:
    Man, big brother does indeed control your brain! Read what you write:

    >The Russian "peacekeepers" failed to pervent attacks on Georgian villages from within Ossetia.
    Be real - remember when and whom did you get this information from, then answer to your question:

    >Why are the Russian government representatives not challenged on this point when interviewed by the BBC?

    may become clear. Remember, all incidents prior to this escalation, including all downing of their reconnaissance drones, Georgia was formally filing with the UN Security Council. UNSC records are available from their website, one that might be of interest to you is #3 of July 18. The only attacks they reported were explosions in Abkhasia, which abkhazs actually blamed on georgians. No independant international observers (including OSCE observers present there) ever verified those allegations you mention. This perhaps is the reason BBC chose not to confront russian officials on this issue.
    Incidentally, russian TV1 has shown an interview with the OSCE observer (english speaker - perhaps dutch) from Tskhinvali, whose partner was killed and who unambiguously attributed the attack. BBC would serve its public well by interviewing the guy - he is a first hand witness.

    Punchline: believe only facts and numbers (such as satellite imagery, which certainly exists but is notably absent!!!). Refer to official statements and transcripts in original and in their entirety. Speculations by talking heads and even more those "political think tank analysts" are useless and dangerous.

  • Comment number 96.

    3rd party involvement. You know i wouldnt put it past hidden elements of the special forces to have had a steering role behind the scenes in this conflict. Thus prompting regional instability and fueling international strife and animosity IMO.

  • Comment number 97.

    After reading "a dirty little war" in today's (17 August) Guardian/Observer, it's as if the Guardian and the BBC must be covering different wars.

  • Comment number 98.

    Unfortunately the days the BBC could be relied upon for factual and neutral comment are long gone.

    Whilst there are still a few journalists working for the Corporation upon whose word I would rely it is clear that there is a general bias towards what the UK Government would wish the BBC to show and say, and rather less of what the world would wish it to say.

    In my opinion the current conflict has been better reported elsewhere than on the BBC - even Channel Five managed to get nearer the knuckle than the BBC appear to have done.

    BBC News needs a good clear out and a return to the days when it didn't matter who seemed to be "right" or "wrong", only that the British public could be trusted to look at the facts, the evidence and make their own judgments accordingly.

  • Comment number 99.

    Guys, please see it:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XI9jEMiUfFs
    The Information is filtered totally. The only one side is showing portraying Saakashvili as a victim.
    Please, look how this hero eats his tie. Is it mentally stable person?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49wOzZdWWYM

  • Comment number 100.

    alexdol @99

    And a talking head in this first video clip you seem to gleefully want us to view is unbiased 'evidence' of atrocities against South Ossettians?

    I could make a video clip of me saying I had been to the moon. It would not make it so.

    Until the Russians produce unfettered journalist access to the mass graves of the 2000 or 1600 (or whetever) South Ossettian dead then the Russians have a fundamental weakness in their justification for war.

    Human Rights Watch on the ground in South Ossettia say the Death Toll was 44 and Casualties were 237 (mainly military):Human Rights Watch questions Russian figures

    Both sides lie and do dreadful things during conflicts but the South Ossetians and the Russian would appear to be the bigger liars at the moment.

 

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