Press-releases of the Embassy

August 13, 2008; 22.00

On the situation in South Ossetia (press review)

1. Russia Wants World`S Attention To Genocide In South Ossetia

Russia is intended to place the South Ossetian issue on the world agenda, the country`s president Dmitry Medvedev announced following his talks with the French leader Nicolas Sarkozy at the Kremlin Tuesday.

The Russian Prosecutor General`s Office has already begun the investigation into Georgian acts of genocide against South Ossetian civilians and the circumstances surrounding the death of the Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone.

Russian experts will act in accordance with international documents, including the 1948 UN Convention On the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Dmitry Medvedev gave these instructions since Russian citizens make up the majority of population of the breakaway republic.

According to the verified data, more than 1600 civilians and 74 Russian peacekeepers died in bombing in the capital of Tskhinvali since August, 8; 34,000 people became refugees.

An expert at the Federal Institute of State and Law, Sergey Maksimov, told in an interview with the VOR that Goergia`s aggression against its breakaway republic can be seen as genocide. The national or the International Court can prove this officially. Mr. Maksimov says there is an example when such a decision was made by the national court.

There is a precedent with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who was sentenced to death after facing genocide charges. The National Court of Iraq decided that for the acts of genocide against even 200 people Hussein had to be murdered. I don`t think the International Court will have any objections to starting a similar trial process in Georgia.

In the UN Convention, genocide means any of the acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Persons committing genocide shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals. Experts say there are plenty of international documents protecting the rights of civilians, including children, tapped in the conflict zone. And a state (here we mean the Republic of Georgia) which launched a military campaign must be viewed as a defendant.

2. Russia Mourns For Humanitarian Disaster Victims In South Ossetia

Today Russia mourns for the victims of Georgias aggression against South Ossetia. Russias President Dmitry Medvedev has proclaimed Wednesday, August 13th, a day of mourning over the humanitarian catastrophe in the Trans-Caucasus republic.

The humanitarian disaster erupted in South Ossetia following the Georgian troop invasion of the unrecognized republic on the 8th of this month and subsequent shelling the capital city Tskhinval and a number of other built-up areas by their multiple launch rocket system GRAD. The city has been actually razed to the ground, with crches, kindergartens, schools and Tskhinvals only hospital are all in ruins. Over 30,000 refugees have fled the city for hteir lives. The South Ossetian authorities report the death of almost 2,000 residents. 74 Russian peacekeepers were killed, with over 150 others wounded. It was thanks to the introduction of additional Russian military units that launched an operation to force Georgia to accept peace that the situation was reversed. Yesterday the operation drew to a close. This is what the Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev said on the subject following his yesterdays meeting with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy.

If Russia had an opportunity to differently react to Georgias aggression against South Ossetia, Dmitry Medvedev says, we would have grasped at it. A state should appropriately react to a situation involving the killing of thousands of its citizens. Any nation and the entire international community should prove absolutely adequate in reacting to international law violations, not just under react, as unfortunately is often the case. So, we could not react differently, and the developments of the five past days prove the reaction was the most effective and consistent. If we had failed to do what we did, the number of deaths would have proved many times greater.

Russia has no law to regulate the proclamation of a nation-wide mourning. It is only the national president who has the exclusive right to do so. Public repercussions sent by a specific tragic development are of paramount importance in making decision on proclaiming a period of national mourning. Given that most South Ossetia residents carry Russian passports, the humanitarian disaster there has sent just his kind of repercussions. Today State flags are flying at half-mast throughout Russia. Cultural agencies and radio and TV companies have taken off the air all entertainment programmes. Russians are paying tribute to the memory of their compatriots, the victims of Georgias aggression.

3. Saakashvili's personal weapon: the media

With his face shown daily on nearly all international news channels, Mikhail Saakashvili has been literally making the news. The Georgian President seems to have chosen the media as his battlefield in the conflict.

As Russian peacekeepers tackled violence on the ground, Saakashvili fought back - increasingly with soft power - through the airwaves.

With his polished international image and fluent English, the American-educated lawyer turned the international news media into his playing field.

But for Nazi Veshaguri this is not a game. For five days shes been worried sick about her son. She hadnt heard a word from him, his cell phone appeared to be switched off. Finally, she made contact.

He said to me, 'mom Im alive. Im safe. And Ill be back'. Oh, I cant tell you how relieved I am. Its been a living nightmare. For five days I didnt know where he was. Ive already lost one son. Its enough in my life. I cannot support my government in this war. I cannot. But I support my Georgia, Veshaguri said.

Despite the calls from mothers like Nazi, Saakashvili has no time for their tears. His arsenal lies with the foreign media.

TV journalists come and go from his office and, since the start of the war, his face has appeared at least four times on CNN, four times on BBC World, and once on Bloomberg TV.

Only Russian journalists have not been welcomed into his office.

We have a feeling that hes acting too much to the West, to his allies, to the foreign and especially Western media. We were surprised as well that he makes so many statements in English. He knows the public face of his work and I think he does it very well. And I think these last days hes been giving a lot of interviews with CNN, the BBC and other channels. He knows what hes doing, Spanish television journalist Mikel Reparaz says.

But its not only on the foreign front that Saakashvilis propaganda machine has been working. At home its in full swing to raise patriotic feelings among his own people

Alex Gaelia, a cameraman who has just returned from the frontline, captured the horrors of the conflict.

I dont believe Saakashvilis image will be better after this war. After so many dead, how can his image be better in Georgia? Gaelia asks.

Nano Abisadze, who works for the Georgian Human Rights Centre, says history will judge the president's image.

It doesnt matter if he speaks English or not. He speaks Russian very well too. Its not about image, its about political and economic interest. Saakashvili thinks that for Georgia its better to be with the West; and the West have put a lot of money into Georgia. This is why they deal with each other, she says.

On Tuesday thousands demonstrated in front of the parliament building in support of the Government.

But the demonstrators are more likely to be worried about the facts on the ground than whether or not Saakashvilis slick media campaign is doing their country any favours. /Russia Today TV Channel/

According to: official web-sites of the President of the Russian Federation, of the Government of the Russian Federation, of the Ministry of the Foreign Affaires of the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS News Agency, Russia Today TV Channel