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Russia invaded first, says Georgia

Recordings of phone calls are proof, asserts President Saakashvili.

September 17, 2008|From the Associated Press

TBILISI, GEORGIA — Georgia on Tuesday released recordings of what it says are two cellphone calls that show Moscow invaded ahead of Georgia's offensive in South Ossetia last month.

President Mikheil Saakashvili said they prove that Russian tanks and troops entered South Ossetia many hours before Georgia moved against separatist forces. Russia dismissed that argument.

The Kremlin has cast Georgia as the aggressor, saying Moscow responded militarily only to defend Russian citizens and peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia from a Georgian offensive that began Aug. 7.

Georgia says the intercepted phone calls show Russian forces entered South Ossetia before dawn that day.

The purported calls mention armored personnel carriers, tanks and personnel at the Roki Tunnel, which leads across the border from Russia into the separatist Georgian province.

The authenticity of the recordings could not immediately be verified.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko dismissed the Georgian claim as "not serious." He said any major troop movements would have been easily tracked by satellites used by NATO nations.

Russia had 500 peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia before the war. But Saakashvili angrily rejected Russian suggestions that the forces in the tunnel were part of a peacekeeping rotation. "You don't send in peacekeepers late at night with tanks," he said.

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