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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tbilisi Defends Its Handling of War

TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia’s Reintegration Ministry on Thursday defended the government’s handling of last year’s war with Russia, which the opposition has blamed on President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Georgia’s response to the “Russian aggression” was “proportionate, necessary and wholly justified,” the ministry said in a report. The government had “no choice but to counter what was rapidly becoming an invasion with aims that far exceeded the dispute over two Georgian territories.”

Russia routed Georgia’s U.S.-trained army in the five-day war over the separatist region of South Ossetia. In the aftermath, Moscow recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway region, as sovereign states. The war caused $1 billion in damage to Georgia’s $12.8 billion economy.

“This report is ridiculous because the government is responsible for this war,” said Kakha Kukava, head of the opposition Conservative Party. “We don’t trust such reports. There’s never been an independent commission on the war.”

A Georgian parliamentary commission in December found “major flaws” in the government’s handling of the war, concluding that Russia’s “intervention” was “well-planned” and that Tbilisi was “clearly unprepared for aggression on such a large scale.”

The commission, which questioned 22 senior government officials, including Saakashvili, said Russia sent more than 11,000 soldiers into Georgia during the conflict. RIA-Novosti reported that 10,000 soldiers were deployed at the peak of the conflict.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday renewed its criticism of Georgia’s “inhuman attack” on South Ossetians and Russian peacekeepers, calling Georgia’s military operation in the region a “preplanned criminal act.”

The Russian military has deployed about 2,240 soldiers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the General Staff, said Wednesday. Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said the number might increase to about 3,000 by the end of the year, RIA-Novosti reported.

Karasin said the Federal Security Service, which defends the two regions’ borders under a five-year agreement signed in April, has deployed about 1,000 border guards in Abkhazia and as many as 800 in South Ossetia.