The fight for South Ossetia

The fight for South Ossetia

BBC World Service presents a special day of programmes examining the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia - asking how and why it happened, and what will happen next.

Russian tank

Russia wants buffer zones inside Georgia

It is almost two weeks since South Ossetia became the front line in a bloody confrontation between Russia and Georgia.

Exactly how the two countries inched closer to war is still unclear. But the key question, who finally triggered the full conflict, is in dispute.

The BBC's Mike Lanchin examines what happened:

Listen Listen to Mike's report (5 mins 12 secs)


A 20-year-old Georgian student was sent to the city of Gori as an army reservist. He recalls his experiences:

Listen Listen here to Michael (1 min 23 secs)

Coffins of Georgian soldiers

The short war was a disaster for Georgia's military

Russia has issued new, lower, casualty figures from the conflict with Georgia, with 133 civilians now listed as dead in South Ossetia.

Far fewer than the 1,600 people Russia initially reported killed. Sixty-four Russian soldiers are confirmed dead and more than 300 wounded. Georgia says it lost 160 soldiers.


So what do the citizens of the two countries make of the conflict, its causes and its outcomes?

The World Today brought together two students to hear their views, Shalva Bibilashvili in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, and from Moscow, Alla Dianova. First, the views of Shalva:

Listen Listen to the discussion here (4 mins 57 secs)

And from the original epicentre of the hostilities, South Ossetia, we hear from a teacher living in the regional capital, Tskhinvali:

South Ossetians refugees in a camp in Georgia

The fighting has led to thousands to flee their homes

Listen Listen to Mira Tcubaty (1 min 25 secs)

Not surprisingly, there is a very different take on events from those across the administrative border which separates South Ossetia from the rest of Georgia:

Listen Listen to Kiuli Berashvilli (55 secs)

Kiuli Berashvilli, who had to leave her home in Gori when the fighting began.


As Russian soldiers marched into Georgia, some in the West compared it to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, while the US spoke of Russia isolating itself.

Yet within Russia itself, there is a real sense of anger that its actions in Georgia are being misunderstood by the outside world. There, Georgia is portrayed as the aggressor, Russia the victim.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt has been finding out how the conflict is viewed in Moscow:

Listen Listen to Caroline's report (4 mins 56 secs)


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski sign a deal to deploy part of a US missile shield on Polish territory

The signing in Poland has led to talk of a new 'Cold War'

Moscow says the US is creating a new arms race in Europe by sealing a deal between America and Poland to locate part of a missile defence system on Polish soil.

Set against the backdrop of the US siding with Georgia, Pavel Andreev from the Russian state news agency Ria Novosti says Russia is losing interest in talking to the US:

Listen Listen to Pavel Andreev (15 secs)

Meanwhile, President Bush is insisting that Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain part of Georgia. He said US support for Georgia was steadfast.

Listen Listen to George Bush (20 secs)


Georgia's government has been accused of playing into Russia's hands by going in hard into South Ossetia and underestimating both Russia's and the West's responses for very different reasons.

Georgia says it will not give up South Ossetia and the other breakaway region of Abkhazia. But what choice does it have when Russia is adamant that the two will never rejoin Georgia?

Speaking to Europe Today's Audrey Carville is Temuri Yakobashvili, Georgia's Minister for re-integration:

Listen Listen to Temuri Yakobashvili (2 mins 35 secs)


There's been lots of talk about Russia's real motives in this conflict. But has the response from the US shown a real lack of understanding of Russia's standing in the world in the 21st Century?

And has this conflict also shown that it is Vladimir Putin, Russia's Prime Minister, who is still in charge in the Kremlin?

Audrey Carville is joined by Robert Hunter, a former US ambassador to NATO, and by Pavel Andreev, Deputy London Bureau Chief of RIA Novosti, the Russian News Agency, and by Oxana Antonenko, Senior Fellow of the International Institute for Strategic Studies:

Listen Listen to the debate (9 mins 57 secs)

First broadcast 21 August 2008