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Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Friday that the August military
Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Friday that the August military offensive in the breakaway region of South Ossetia was aimed at protecting ethnic Georgians.

"Many wonder if Georgia conducted the military operation against the Tskhinvali region to establish control over territory which was not controlled by Tbilisi. My response is 'Yes,' we opted for military action to protect our population, and this decision was inevitable," Saakashvili told a parliamentary commission investigating the August events.

Saakashvili made the comments justifying the decision to launch a major offensive on the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, on August 7, which left hundreds of civilians dead, following recent criticism at home over the five-day war with Russia.

The Georgian president reiterated statements made previously that Tbilisi had not started the war and had merely responded to several months of skirmishes and tension between Georgians and South Ossetians culminating in strikes, which Saakashvili said had taken place on August 6, on villages inhabited by ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia.

Saakashvili also said that a Russian military column has already entered the Roki tunnel linking South and North Ossetia, in neighboring Russia, before Tbilisi gave the green light for the attack, which had initially targeted Russian peacekeepers deployed in the region since a bloody conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia in the 1990s.

According to Saakashvili, the United States had urged Georgia not to respond to provocations. "The U.S. was certain before August that Russia was not prepared for such large-scale intervention similar to that in Afghanistan in 1979," the Georgian president said.

After the attack on Tskhinvali, during which a number of Russian peacekeepers were also killed, Russia launched a military operation to expel Georgian troops, which was condemned by the international community as "disproportionate."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgia region which broke away from Tbilisi in the 1990s following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, as independent states on August 26.


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