Svetlana Skarbo and Jonathan Petre
UK Daily Mail
Sunday, Aug 10, 2008
Georgia ‘pulls out of S Ossetia’
Georgia has today withdrawn its troops from the capital of South Ossetia, according to reports.
The ceasefire came just hours after claims emerged Russian jets had bombed a vital pipeline that supplies oil to the West.
After a day of heightening international tensions, Georgian leaders claimed that the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which transports oil from the Caspian Sea to Turkey, had been attacked. But it is thought the bombs missed their target.
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Their claims came after Russian jets struck deep into the territory of its tiny neighbour, killing civilians and ‘completely devastating’ the strategic Black Sea port of Poti, a staging post for oil and other energy supplies.
Reports last night also said that Russia had bombed the international airport in Tbilisi.
Georgian economic development minister Ekaterina Sharashidzne said: ‘This clearly shows that Russia has targeted not just Georgian economic outlets but international economic outlets as well.’
The pipeline is 30 per cent owned by BP and supplies 1 per cent of the world’s oil needs, pumping up to a million barrels of crude per day to Turkey.
It is crucial to the world’s volatile energy market and the only oil and gas route that bypasses Russia’s stranglehold on energy exports from the region.
As President Bush led the West in intensifying pressure on Russia to halt the bombing in Georgia last night, the two countries were edging closer to full-scale war over their conflicting claims for disputed territory.
Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili called for a ceasefire and accused Moscow of mounting an unprovoked invasion that put ‘the entire post-Cold War order of Europe and the world at stake’.
But Moscow said that the conflict could not be resolved unless Georgia withdrew from its breakaway region of South Ossetia. The alarming developments followed a second day of drama and bloodshed in the pro-Western country in which:
• Russian jets widened the offensive by bombing the central Georgian town of Gori – Joseph Stalin’s birthplace – in an attack on military targets that Georgian authorities claimed killed 60 civilians, and attacked the port of Poti.
• Georgia claimed that Russian troops had opened a new front by moving into another disputed province, Abkhazia, which has also suffered from ethnic tensions.
• Georgia declared a state of war, recalled all its 2,000 troops from Iraq and ordered a mass call-up with reservists being sent to the war zone to ‘defend the motherland’.
• Russia claimed that it had ‘completely liberated’ the capital of South Ossetia Tskhinvali – a claim denied by Georgia – after flying in elite troops in an operation Moscow said was intended to force Georgia into a ceasefire.
• Georgia claimed to have shot down 12 Russian combat aircraft – but Moscow confirmed that only two planes were missing.
• Georgia may pull its 35-strong Olympic team out of the Beijing games because of the Russian military attacks, the country’s National Olympic Committee said.
This article was posted: Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 4:12 am