1. Human Rights Watch says the Russian claim of 2000 South Ossetians killed by Georgian forces is bunkum. Actual count at the city morgue so far is 44. HRW also reports that the false claims are being used by the Russians to incite violence against ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia. I hope (but don’t expect) that all the media outlets that have been reporting the Russian propaganda as fact to justify the Russian intervention (while of course describing the intervention itself as “disproportionate”) are duly embarrassed.
2. Defying the cease-fire signed only yesterday, a column of Russian armor is advancing south from South Ossetia through Georgia proper. Behind that column are groups of banditti, reports Luke Harding of the Guardian:
Villages in Georgia were being burned and looted as Russian tanks and soldiers followed by “irregulars” advanced from the breakaway province of South Ossetia, eyewitnesses said today.
“People are fleeing, there is a mood of absolute panic. The idea there is a ceasefire is ridiculous,” Luke Harding, the Guardian’s correspondent, said.
Earlier, witnesses reported a military convoy heading towards the Georgian capital Tbilisi, but it later turned off the road and headed back towards South Ossetia. Russia denied any advance.
Harding, watching villages near Gori burn, said witnesses had told him Russian military, including at least 25 tanks, had moved from the Russian-controlled South Ossetia into the villages.
“They asked villagers to hang white flags or handkerchiefs outside their houses if they did not want to be shot, they say.”
The tanks had passed through the village of Rekha at about 11.20am local time. “Behind them (say eyewitnesses) is a whole column of irregulars who locals say are Chechens, Cossacks and Ossetians.
“Eyewitnesses say they are looting, killing and burning. These irregulars have killed three people and set fire to villages. They have been taking away young boys and girls,” said Harding, watching smoke rise from another village, Karaleti.
These are, of course, war crimes.