Georgia’s foray into breakaway South Ossetia now looks like a gamble which was doomed to fail. Tbilisi’s army proved no match for the Russians, whose rapid response included air raids in Georgia proper. Gori, just 60 kms from Tbilisi, was bombed just before Moscow issued the order to stop fighting. Five people died in the attack; one of the victims was a cameraman for the Luxembourg-based RTL television channel. In the face of Russian power, Georgia’s forces pulled back to defend Tbilisi itself.
Enjoying total control, Russia has said some troops will be withdrawn from South Ossetia’s capital Tskhinvali if a ceasefire holds. They will leave behind them a city shattered by war, whose few survivors must now rebuild their broken lives. Directly or indirectly, Moscow now controls South Ossetia, which wants to join the Russian Federation, and Abkhazia, which demands complete independence.
Fighting continues there, with separatist forces claiming to have driven the Georgians from the strategically-important Kodori Gorge. It was one of the few places in Abkhazia still under Tbilisi’s control when fighting erupted on Friday. However, Abkhazia’s leader insists his forces will not pursue the Georgians across the region’s border.