Georgia marks anniversary of the August war on Friday with number of ceremonies with one, which involved a nationwide minute of silence at 3pm local time to commemorate those killed in the war.
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Official commemorations began at midnight in Gori and in number of other Georgian towns with lighting of a “bonfire of unity.” President Saakashvili will address to the national from Gori later on Friday evening.
Many of the commemoration events are taking place in Gori – a town, which along with Tskhinvali, suffered most of the last year’s war. Senior officials will gather in the town by midday to lay the foundation for a monument on which names of those killed during the war will be engraved.
According to the Georgian government’s report 412 Georgian citizens were killed in the August war, including 228 civilians; 170 military; 14 policemen. 10 military servicemen and 14 policemen remain missing. A Dutch and two Georgian journalists were also killed during the military hostilities.
Meanwhile in Tbilisi, a Soviet-old armoured personnel carrier is blocking the capital city’s main thoroughfare, Rustaveli Avenue; it is part of an outdoor installation, also involving various types of other expositions, designed to depict, what the organizers say, is “two centuries of Russian aggression” against Georgia starting from 1783 Georgievsk Treaty under which eastern Georgia became the Russian empire’s protectorate.
In the lead up to the anniversary, the Georgian national television stations started airing number of different spots on the last year’s war with some of them running under the banner “Struggle Continues.”
One of the spots is a compilation of extracts from the senior Russian officials’ quotes with Foreign Minister Lavrov saying “the Georgian people is a friend of the Russian people” and President Medvedev saying “we respect and love the Georgian people” and then the footage of Russia aircraft firing missiles to the Georgian positions is shown with words on the background reading: “Russian love.”
Meanwhile, a pro-opposition Maestro TV renewed airing one of many of its anti-Saakashvili TV spots saying that the President signed “capitulation treaty” under which Georgia lost more territories and then a narrator starts listing names of dozens of those villages, which came under the Russian forces control after the August war both in upper Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Yes Russia has taken over several dozen of villages… but Russia’s eventual goal was full annihilation of Georgia,” President Saakashvili said in a pre-recorded lengthy interview aired by Imedi TV late on August 6. He said that’s what Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov told then his U.S. counterpart Condoleezza Rice.
He said that the Georgian army could have resisted overwhelming Russian invasion and protected areas, which eventually came under the Russian control, but “that would have meant destruction of the Georgian army and there would have been no one to protect Tbilisi.”
“Those saying that Georgia launched the war are marginalized group of politicians in Georgia,” he said.
On August 6 the Georgian government released a report detailing its version of events leading up to the war and justifying its decisions prior and during the military actions.
In his article published by the Washington Post on August 6, President Saakashvili wrote that Russia’s 58th army crossed over Georgia’s internationally recognized borders and began “a long-planned invasion aimed at toppling my government and increasing Moscow’s control over our region.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian ran on August 6 a joint commentary piece by two secessionist leaders, Eduard Kokoity and Sergey Bagapsh, who write that a year ago Georgia’s leaders “ordered a military attack on unarmed civilians in South Ossetia.” “The free nations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are threatened by western complicity in our isolation and intimidation by Georgia,” the Abkhaz and South Ossetian leaders write.