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article imageEx-Defense Minister: Georgia's Saakashvili 'planned S. Ossetia invasion'

By Chris V. Thangham     Sep 14, 2008 in World
President Mikheil Saakasvili’s former defense minister said Saakashvili had long planned a military strike to seize back the breakaway region of South Ossetia. But because of poor planning, he made it easy for Russia to retaliate.
Irakly Okruashvili is currently living in France as a political exile. He gave an interview to the local French media and discussed the Georgian war. Okruashvili blames Saakashvili for initiating the war, which gave an excuse for Russia to consolidate its positions in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Saakashvili has always claimed that Russian started the war. He met with the EU leaders last week and said he had strong proof that Russia invaded first but didn’t give any evidence to them.
Okruashvili was a close Saakashvili ally earlier and served as a defense minister for Georgia from 2004 to 2006. Okruashvili had to quit in 2007 and fled the country after corruption charges were imposed against him by Saakashvili. But Okruashvili claims that he is innocent of the charges and was punished because of being critical against the leader.
He told the press that he and Saakashvili had worked together on military plans to invade South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Abkhazia was our strategic priority, but we drew up military plans in 2005 for taking both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well.
He criticized Saakashvili’s handling of the war, which was launched in haste without diplomatic support from the U.S. or Europe and most importantly ignored the build-up of Russian forces in the S. Ossetia region.
He talked about the poor strategic planning of the war.
The original plans called for a two-pronged operation entering South Ossetia, taking Tskhinvali (regional capital), the Roki Tunnel and Java...Saakashvili's offensive only aimed at taking Tskhinvali, because he thought the U.S. would block a Russian reaction through diplomatic channels...But when the U.S. reaction turned out to be non-existent, Saakashvili then moved troops toward the Roki tunnel, only to be outmaneuvered by the Russians.
Russia responded with a stronger force and drove back Georgian forces and took full control of the disputed regions.
The Bush government didn’t respond earlier because they had clearly warned that they won’t support Georgia in case of an invasion according to Okruashvili when they met with Bush in 2005.
There was no immediate reaction from Saakashvili's officials to his remarks.
Okruashvili also blamed Washington for supporting an authoritarian leader. He said lack of criticism from the U.S. has worsened Saakashvili's standing. The EU-brokered ceasefire plan has given Russia a stronger claim instead of favoring Georgia. Saakashvili is to be blamed for not opposing it says Okruashvili.
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