Russian Warplanes Continue To Bomb Georgia Georgia says it's pulling its troops out of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, the scene of fierce fighting for the past three days, and that it wants a ceasefire with Russia. But Russia says there are still Georgian forces in South Ossetia, and Russian warplanes have continued bombing targets inside Georgia. NPR's Ivan Watson in Tbilisi, Georgia, and Andrea Seabrook talk about the day's developments.
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Russian Warplanes Continue To Bomb Georgia

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Russian Warplanes Continue To Bomb Georgia

Russian Warplanes Continue To Bomb Georgia

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Russia says it sank a Georgian missile boat today as fighting rages on over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Georgia has asked for a ceasefire and says it's pulling its troops out of the disputed territory.

Here's Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili speaking to CNN.

President MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI (Georgia): We proclaim this fight. We are willing to sign the document on nonuse of force and no resumption of hostilities. We need to bring back peace and to stop this innocent, senseless, brutal, absolutely unacceptable killings.

SEABROOK: But Russia says there are still Georgian forces in South Ossetia and Russian warplanes have continued bombing targets inside Georgia.

NPR's Ivan Watson is in Georgia's capital Tbilisi. And Ivan, tell us about the latest air strikes.

IVAN WATSON: Andrea, Russian warplanes bombed a military airstrip and factory around sunset today just on the edge of the Georgian capital. That's the second time that target's been hit in a single day. We haven't gotten any reports of casualties so far from that latest attack.

SEABROOK: Georgia says it's pulling out of South Ossetia. Russia says that's not happening. You traveled to the border with South Ossetia today, did you see evidence that Georgia's withdrawing?

WATSON: Definitely, Andrea. There were scores of Georgian soldiers pulling out at one village I visited and the soldiers explained to me that they came under heavy Russian bombardment overnight last night while they were in South Ossetia. And that they were powerless to do anything against the Russian warplanes. And that was the reason for their withdrawal.

One of the soldiers went so far as to beg for America or Europe to help, to provide some kind of weapons or money to combat Russian aviation.

SEABROOK: What's happening to civilians caught in the middle of all this?

WATSON: Andrea, I stumbled across a heartbreaking scene today outside a hospital in the Georgian of Gori.

Ms. YVEMA TABILIZA(ph) (Resident): (Speaking in foreign language)

WATSON: That's the sound of Yvema Tabiliza and her mother after they discovered the body of Tabiliza's missing husband in the morgue a day after a series of Russian air strikes against three apartment buildings in Gori on Saturday. That killed at least 15 people according to Georgian doctors there. The Russians meanwhile say that some 2,000 people were killed in South Ossetia as a result of this fighting over the past three days.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled South Ossetia, fleeing both to Russia and ethnic Georgians from that breakaway region have been fleeing here to Georgia. Hundreds of these Georgian refugees slept on the street last night here in Tbilisi in front of the mayor's office. We also have reports that two Georgian journalists working for Russian news agencies who went missing were killed in the fighting in South Ossetia.

SEABROOK: Ivan, it sounds like with all the claims and counterclaims here, Russia and Georgia are also fighting over information, a PR battle.

WATSON: Definitely. The Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, has been going live on TV for long interviews in English pointing at maps, justifying his military offensive into South Ossetia. A Georgian military spokesman I talked to says that every time the Russians bomb Georgian territory, first they hit cell phone towers and knock out telecommunications.

It's still very difficult to get a call anywhere around the country right now. And meanwhile most of the Georgian news websites have crashed in the past three days, presumably due to some of kind of hacker attacks. Also, Georgian servers appear to have blocked access to all Russian websites.

SEABROOK: NPR's Ivan Watson just back from the border of South Ossetia. Thanks Ivan.

WATSON: You're welcome, Andrea.

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