Georgia Declares State of War with Russia?
CNN reports that the Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, has asked parliament to declare that a state of war now exists with Russia whose jets continue to bomb targets inside of Georgia proper.
However, and perhaps as sign that Georgia understands it cannot match Russian firepower, Saakashvili has also called for an immediate ceasefire although it is still uncertain which side controls Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital.
Georgia’s president says he has asked his country’s parliament to announce a state of war as fierce battles with Russia military over the breakaway region of South Ossetia entered their second day.
Inna Gagloyeva, the spokeswoman for the South Ossetian Information and Press Committee, told the Interfax news agency the capital was being “massively shelled” with artillery guns.
It was also unclear which side was in control of Tskhinvali on Saturday, with the Georgian side saying fighting still raged but the Russians saying they have “liberated” the city.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from Georgian soil and cease its aircraft and missile attacks.
Rice issued her statement as Georgia, a former Soviet state that now wants to join NATO, said it would declare martial law and battled to get control of the rebel enclave, which was fortified by Russian forces.
Georgia said Russian fighter jets bombed container tankers and a shipbuilding plant in the port of Poti, prompting Washington’s sharpest rebuke of Russia since the crisis began.
“We deplore the Russian military action in Georgia, which is a violation of Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity,” U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters at a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York.
The State Department summoned the Charge d’Affaires at Russia’s Embassy in Washington, Aleksander Darchiyev, to see Rice’s deputy John Negroponte, who pressed Moscow to stop its military activities in Georgia.
“The deputy secretary said that we deplore today’s Russian attacks by strategic bombers and missiles, which are threatening civilian lives,” said State Department spokesman Robert Wood of Negroponte’s meeting with the Russian diplomat.
“These attacks mark a dangerous and disproportionate escalation of tension,” he added.
Both Rice and the White House urged an immediate cease-fire in South Ossetia, and U.S. officials said they would send an envoy to the region to help mediate.
As fighting raged in and around the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russia and Georgia were at war.