Der Spiegel has supposedly obtained confidential documents written by the EU team led by Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini that is investigating the war last summer. There are quite a few interesting little nuggets in Der Spiegel’s write-up. Here are a few:
The confidential investigative commission documents, which SPIEGEL has obtained, show that the task of assigning blame for the conflict has been as much of a challenge for the commission members as it has for the international community. However, a majority of members tend to arrive at the assessment that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili started the war by attacking South Ossetia on August 7, 2008. The facts assembled on Tagliavini’s desk refute Saakashvili’s claim that his country became the innocent victim of “Russian aggression” on that day.
The experts found no evidence to support claims by the Georgian president, which he also mentioned in an interview with SPIEGEL, that a Russian column of 150 tanks had advanced into South Ossetia on the evening of Aug. 7. According to the commission’s findings, the Russian army didn’t enter South Ossetia until August 8.
But the report apparently doesn’t let Russia entirely off the hook. From Hamburg-based international law expert Otto Luchterhandt, another commission member:
Georgia’s attack, Luchterhandt argues, constitutes a breach of this agreement, thereby giving Russia the right to intervene. Nevertheless, he writes, the Kremlin, with its overwhelming intervention in western Georgia, can be accused of “violating the principle of proportionality.”
And then there’s the war crimes accusation:
The commission also cited many serious attacks on Georgian civilians by South Ossetia militias. According to a report for the commission by Swiss legal expert Théo Boutruche, militia members, most of them young men, looted and burned down several villages inhabited by Georgians, beat civilians and murdered more than a dozen Georgians. According to the Hague Convention on Land Warfare, the Russian occupying force was obligated to reestablish public order. But it did almost nothing to prevent the atrocities, which a commission dossier classifies as “war crimes.”
Finally, the closer:
But Tagliavini’s team won’t be questioning any Americans. According to one member of the commission, “our director and the EU apparently lack the courage” to take that step.
While Der Spiegel insists that the leak it has is legitimate, Tagliavini’s office denies that it ever had any contact with Der Spiegel on the matter. According to an email exchange between her office and the state-owned Russia Today:
“Spiegel’s article is not based on information provided by… Ambassador Tagliavini, or any other authorized sources…. There has been no interview, background briefing or any other way of communication in order to provide information for the article. The report… shall be presented to the EU Council of Ministers by 31 July 2009 and comes under the sole and exclusive responsibility of Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, and not under the responsibility of the Mission’s experts or the majority of its experts.”
Now, as we get our knives sharpened and ready, there’s just one more thing. Recently shot interviews are up on YouTube now in which Svante Cornell of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute of John Hopkins University, Paul Goble, former State Dept. official and blogger at Window on Eurasia and David Satter of the Hudson Institute speak about motives, tactics and implications in Russia-Georgia relations.
Okay my deed here is done. Go ahead now, rip it up. All of it.