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Putin is solely responsible. Saakaszwili had no choice

"Russian journalist: Putin is solely responsible. Saakaszwili had no choice."  Marcin Wojciechowski (Gazeta Wyborcza, 2008-08-10; the full interview to be published on Monday

Who is right in the georgian-russian conflict - Moscow or Tbilisi? 

Oleg Panfilow:

Georgian President Saakashvili had no choice but to attack South Osetia. For more than 10 days Georgian territory was shelled from Osetian positions.  Russian peacekeepers watched it passively. Saakashvili called on Russia to calm down  the leadership of South Osetia, threatened to use force, and finally it all boiled over ... Russia did nothing to diminish the tension. And that's how  Georgian military action in South Osetia turned into regular war (...)  They (the Russians) bombed all military airfields, harbor in Poti, several military bases. Georgians can;t believe that they are in regular war with Russia. Nobody expected  that Russia would react so violently to the events in SOuth Osetia. Georgians are astonished  and upset that Russia used a pretext to start a regular war against Georgia. 

MW - Are Georgians ready to fight Russia? 

OP -

All Georgian opposition united around Saakashvili, despite still recently calling  him the worst, accusing him of falsifying the elections, attempting dictatorship, etc.  Today it does not matter who believes what politically. Everyone wants to fight for Georgia.  Even the former minister of defense Irakli Irakisziwili wanted by the Tbilisi authorities for the attempted coup (probably in hiding in Russia)  declared in an interview that he would like to return to Georgia to fight for it as an ordinary soldier.  Many of my friends, the reservists, declare readiness to fight the aggressor. The mood is solemn.  Strangely, there are no anti-Russian sentiments, in a sense of wanting revenge against ordinary  Russians. I am walking around in the streets, I am speaking in Russian, I am not hiding who I am,  and nobody confronted me. No even a verbal abuse. To me this is incredible. I hope it stays this way. 

MW - How do you explain this? 

OP -

Georgians know Russia. They know that ordinary Russians are not responsible for this war; t he politics of Putin is. This war proves where the process started in Russia by Putin will lead us.  It does not matter that he is not a president any more, but a prime minister. I am certain that Putin  makes key decisions regarding the war against Georgia.  MW - French chief of foreign ministry Bernard Kouchner is going to Georgia as an envoy of  the European Union.

Does he have chance to bring about a ceasefire? 

OP -

There is also a delegation of Czech parliament in Georgia. Just a ceasefire will not be enough. There must be pressure on Putin so that Russia will never again behave like this.  Becaause if you allow them once, under a feeble pretext, to invade  Georgia, any other country can be the next in line. this is the sense of this war to me.  This is not just some local skirmish. This is a war for the shape of relationship between the West and Russia. 

*Oleg Panfilow is the chief of to Moscow Center for Extreme Journalism. Since the  demise of the USSR he reported on all military conflicts in its former territories. He chronicles the abuses against freedom of expression and repressions against journalists in the former USSR.

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