Wednesday Georgia said an EU-sponsored report from the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia proved Moscow had been preparing for conflict all along.
Spin machines in both countries went into action after publication of the report, which said Georgia had triggered the war with an unjustified assault on its breakaway South Ossetia region on the night of August 7 last year.
The 1,000-page document said Russia's military response had gone beyond reasonable limits and violated international law, but the findings were particularly damning for Georgia's pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili.
After Russia welcomed the report as confirmation Georgia had started the war, the Georgian government issued a statement saying "the Commission confirms that Russia invaded Georgia before Georgia took military action," Reuters reports.
CNN quoted the report as saying, "The conflict is rooted in a profusion of causes comprising different layers in time and actions combined."
"While it is possible to identify the authorship of some important events and decisions marking its course, there is no way to assign overall responsibility for the conflict to one side alone. They have all failed, and it should be their responsibility to make good for it."
Georgia launched a campaign against South Ossetia, a Russian-backed separatist Georgian territory, on August 7, 2008. The following day, Russian tanks, troops and armored vehicles poured into South Ossetia and another Russian-backed breakaway Georgian territory, Abkhazia, advancing into Georgian cities outside the rebel regions.
A total of about 850 people were killed on all sides, the report said, and untold numbers of others were wounded or went missing. About 100,000 civilians fled their homes, and about 35,000 have been unable to return, CNN reports.
It was also reported, the report’s author, Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, urged readers to look beyond the events of Aug. 7, which she said in a statement “was the culminating point of months and years of mounting tensions.”
“While the onus of having actually triggered off the war lies with the Georgian side, the Russian side, too, carries the blame for a substantial number of violations of international law,” Ms. Tagliavini said, The New York Times reports.