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Georgian President Accuses Russia Of Violations


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The warring sides in Georgia have agreed to stop. Russia and Georgia agreed to what's described as a provisional cease-fire. It comes after fighting that killed hundreds, displaced tens of thousands, and forced the world's attention to a volatile region.

The many people talking about this include Republican presidential candidate John McCain. We will interview McCain after we get an update from Georgia's capital. NPR's Ivan Watson is there. And Ivan, what does this cease-fire agreement say?

IVAN WATSON: Well, it's calling for a temporary secession of hostilities, but I just spoke with Georgian officials who are really questioning whether it is truly a ceasefire because I've just returned from a press conference with the Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili. He said there was no Russian bombardment overnight last night but he has made fresh, disturbing allegations of Russian activities against ethnic Georgians in the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Let's listen to what he just said at this press conference.

President MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI (Georgia): Camps were set; women and men were separated from each other; internment camps were set up, set, and we are getting reports of large-scale violations of human rights.

WATSON: The Georgians are claiming, Steve, that Russian irregular militia forces are moving through Georgian villages, looting and executing people in and around South Ossetia. The Georgian government also claims that Russian troops destroyed yesterday Georgian military boats in the Black Sea port of Poti. And finally, Georgian officials have just claimed that dozens of Russian tanks just rolled through the town of Gori, which is just 50 miles west of here, the Georgian capital, Steve.

INSKEEP: So Ivan Watson, you have these claims both that this fighting is even grimmer than it seems and perhaps that it's not over. What kinds of reports are you hearing from elsewhere in Georgia?

WATSON: Steve, I just got off the phone with a resident in the town of Gori. She said she was standing two yards away from a Russian tank in the center of the town, that there were 10 to 15 of these Russian tanks rolling through that town as we speak. I also spoke to a resident in the Black Sea port of Poti. She says that Russian armored vehicles were operating in that town Monday and Tuesday but have since withdrawn.

And the Russians have also occupied, according to eyewitness reports, at least two other Georgian towns in the west - west of the country. So the situation is pretty grim for this country, Steve. The Georgian army has been smashed as of Monday - it's nowhere to be seen - and the government is not in control of many of its bigger towns west of the capital.

And we also have tens of thousands of people displaced, both from South Ossetia and from Georgian territory, and they are terrified of both the advancing Russian troops and even more so of rumors of these irregular Russian-backed forces operating in the area, militia-type people who are said to be looting and marauding. I unfortunately cannot confirm those reports right now.

INSKEEP: Ivan, very briefly, is Georgia getting any international support in this situation?

WATSON: The presidents of five ex-Soviet bloc countries appeared on stage with the Georgian president yesterday, Steve. They are showing solidarity with Georgia against Russia. They are clearly worried that if the Russians move on Georgia that they could be next, and they are saying as much in statements with the Georgian president.

So Georgia is getting support but I think these new reports are destroying some of the euphoria that was being felt at a concert yesterday in Tbilisi in the town square with these five presidents standing alongside the Georgian president, showing defiance against Moscow.

INSKEEP: Okay. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Ivan Watson in Georgia's capital. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Ivan Watson
Ivan Watson is currently based in Istanbul, Turkey. Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, he has served as one of NPR's foreign "firemen," shuttling to and from hotspots around the Middle East and Central Asia.

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