Monday, 11 August 2008

Russia points to media bias in coverage of S.Ossetia conflict

A top Russian diplomat accused foreign media on Sunday of pro-Georgian bias in their coverage of the ongoing conflict between Georgia and Russia over breakaway South Ossetia.

Russia says Georgian forces have killed around 2,000 South Ossetian civilians, mainly Russian nationals, in attacks that began on Friday, and that 34,000 locals have been forced to flee to Russia. In response to the Georgian offensive, Russia sent tanks and troops into the province, and carried out a series of air strikes on Georgian military targets.

"We want television screens in the West to be showing not only Russian tanks, and texts saying Russia is at war in South Ossetia and with Georgia, but also to be showing the suffering of the Ossetian people, the murdered elderly people and children, the destroyed towns of South Ossetia, and [regional capital] Tskhinvali. This would be an objective way of presenting the material," Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told a RIA Novosti news conference.

Current Western media coverage of the events in the separatist republic is "a politically motivated version, to put it mildly," he said.

The United States, Georgia's key ally, has called Russia's strikes on Georgian territory "dangerous and disproportionate," and warned that they could harm relations with Washington in the long-term. Georgia said on Friday that 300 of its citizens had been killed, mainly civilians, by Russian forces.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier called Russia's actions "absolutely justified and legitimate from the legal standpoint," and accused Georgia of "full-scale genocide."

At the premier's meeting with South Ossetian refugees at a makeshift hospital camp in Russia's North Ossetia on Saturday, eyewitnesses described atrocities committed by Georgian troops, including an incident where a group of local young women were rounded up and burned alive, and killings of old people and children.

Karasin said on Saturday that the country may ask the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights to investigate war crimes committed by Georgia.

Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said on Sunday that Georgian forces had fully withdrawn from the separatist province.

However, a spokesman for the peacekeeping command told RIA Novosti: "This statement is a lie, just like [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili's statement on the impossibility of using military force in conflict zones."

Russia has also denied bombing Georgian towns.

"The Georgian side has named some nearby populated areas and towns, saying they are being bombed by the Russian Air Force. I take full responsibility in saying that the Russian side did not bomb any populated area," Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, told a news briefing on Sunday.


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