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Russia advances into Georgia -

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Russia advances into Georgia

The World Today - Tuesday, 12 August , 2008 12:10:00

Reporter: David Mark

ELEANOR HALL: The Russian invasion of Georgia appears to be escalating well beyond the borders of
the original flash point, South Ossetia. News agencies are reporting that Russian troops have
invaded several towns inside Georgia and have moved closer to the capital, Tbilisi.

But while the fighting intensifies, so does the propaganda war with both sides seeking to take the
high moral ground. David Mark prepared this report.

(Sound of street traffic)

DAVID MARK: Georgia is well and truly shrouded in the fog of war with claims and counter claims of
a Russian advance deep into Georgian territory. International media organisations are reporting
that Russia has invaded well beyond the original flash point of South Ossetia.

Russia has confirmed that it has advanced beyond the borders of Abkhazia in the East and launched
an operation in the Georgian town of Senaki. Although it says it has withdrawn other reports
suggest Russia has also taken control of the towns of Kurga, and Zugdidi and military bases in the
West of Georgia

There are more reports of Georgian casualties in the town of Gori and of bombing in the capital
Tbilisi. This woman spoke to reporters from the South Ossetian town of Tskinvali.

RESIDENT (translated): I'm here with my disabled girl, only two of us in this building. My husband
died, not in this war but in the previous one. This is what they turned our small beautiful city in
to. But that's nothing; you don't even know what's going on.

In Zenori they burned 50 people alive, a tank went over an old lady with two children. I don't know
what to say, if only God would help us and Russia we count on you.

DAVID MARK: The conflict began five days ago when Georgia sent forces into the pro-Russian province
of South Ossetia, that declared itself independent from Georgia in the early 90's. Moscow
immediately retaliated and while there have been deaths on both sides, it's civilians who are the
main casualties.

Russia claims 2,000 people have died in South Ossetia since fighting began. For now though,
Russia's President, Dmitry Medvedev, is talking only of peace.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV (translated): We have completed the most significant part of the operation,
compelling the Georgian side to peace in South Ossetia. Tskinvali is under the full control of the
reinforced Russian peace keeping contingent. We, I, mean the Russian peace keepers will take all
necessary measures to defend the lives of Russian citizens.

DAVID MARK: But Georgia's pro-west President, Mikheil Saakashvili, is presenting a different story.
He says Russia has sent 20,000 troops and 500 tanks into Georgia. After dodging a Russian bombing
run in the town of Gori half-way between South Ossetia and the Georgian capital, President
Saakashvili, was still speaking defiantly.

MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI: And there can be no plans of surrender of any responsible Government. We will
protect every household in Georgia as much we can and we'll, you know, lots of people certainly
have been showing that and of course there are people who have already died for that and there are
people willing to die for that in the future.

DAVID MARK: But in the face of an overwhelming military presence, with Georgian troops pull back to
the capital and reports of Russian troops taking control throughout the country, the Georgian
President is making a desperate plea to the World.

Russia's goal, he says, is to overthrow his country.

MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI: And the result and the end game of this operation of Russian troop is to
commit ethnic cleansing and annihilation of ethnic Georgian population in entire Abkhazia. I want
to appeal to the world present consciousness, can one in the eyes of today's world say openly and
cynically those lies?

And can one still hesitate and say oh you know maybe we should think who's at fault and who is
doing what and who started and who responded? It is so clear what's happened. We are in the process
of invasion, occupation and annihilation of an independent democratic country.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, ending David Mark's report.