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Saakhashvili: Georgia has evidence Russia started the war

DPA [1]
Tuesday, Sept 9, 2008

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said he handed over ‘solid evidence’ to the European Union that his country did not start the conflict in the southern Caucasus, Georgian media reported Tuesday.

He had proof that Georgia reacted to a large-scale Russian invasion, Saakashvili said Monday night after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Tblisi.

‘We can prove this,’ he was quoted as saying. ‘It is a very solid proof, and you have the ability to appreciate it.’

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The French president, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, travelled to the Georgian capital with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Javier Solana, the EU’s top diplomat, to discuss the withdrawal plan of Russian troops from Georgian territory negotiated with Moscow Monday.

‘They [the Russians] started it,’ Saakashvili charged. ‘They’ve invaded us in a classical way like the invasions happened in the 19th century, in the 20th century and unfortunately it happened again in the 21st century.’

He did not provide details on the evidence provided to the European Union.

Saakashvili’s version of events is disputed within Georgia. Both Russia and Georgia insist the other party is responsible for the outbreak of hostilities in early August.

According to Moscow’s version, Russian troops only invaded South Ossetia on August 8 after Georgia attacked the breakaway region’s capital, Tskhinvali.

Saakashvili also welcomed the calls by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for an international investigation into the start of the war to determine who was responsible.

He accused Russia of having ‘faked’ accusations of genocide in South Ossetia. ‘Everybody knows now that genocide was fake,’ he said. ‘There was no genocide.’

At the same time, he rejected accusations that he had walked into a Russian trap.