Occupation of Gori

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Occupation of Gori
Part of Russo-Georgian War
Date August 13–22, 2008
Location Gori, Georgia
41°58′52.86″N 44°06′34.35″E / 41.9813500°N 44.1095417°E / 41.9813500; 44.1095417Coordinates: 41°58′52.86″N 44°06′34.35″E / 41.9813500°N 44.1095417°E / 41.9813500; 44.1095417
Result Subsequent withdrawal of Russian forces (negotiated).
 South Ossetia
Commanders and leaders
Russia Vyacheslav Borisov Unknown
Elements of the 58th Army
Russian Air Force units
Ossetian militia
Georgian Army
Georgian Police
Casualties and losses
None Unknown
Civilian Casualties: Exact number unknown
1 Dutch journalist killed[1]
Refugees: About 56,000[2]

The Occupation of Gori was the military occupation of Gori and its surrounding villages by Russian military forces, which started on August 13, 2008 as part of the Russo-Georgian War, and ended with the withdrawal of Russian units from the city by 22 August 2008.[3]

Background and initial airstrikes[edit]

Gori is a major Georgian city close to the administrative boundary of the region of South Ossetia, about 25 km (16 mi) from Tskhinvali.[4] It was the staging area for the Georgian army during the Battle of Tskhinvali and was bombed several times by the Russian Air Force.[5][6] 75 tanks and armored personnel carriers (a third of the Georgian military's arsenal) were assembled near Gori.[7]

According to western intelligence, the Russian bombings began at 7:30 a.m. 8 August, when Russia fired an SS-21 ballistic missile on the city of Borjomi, southwest of Gori. The missile reportedly hit military and government bunker positions.[7] Around 6:27 AM on 9 August, Reuters reported that two Russian fighters had bombed a Georgian artillery position about 10 km north of Gori.[8][9] On 9 August, a Russian air attack targeted military barracks. In the resulting explosion, besides the base, several apartment buildings and a school were also damaged.[10] The Georgian government reported that 60 civilians were killed when at least one bomb hit an adjacent apartment building.[5] According to the Russian media, Russian aircraft dropped three bombs on an armament depot, and the façade of one of the adjacent 5-story apartment buildings suffered damage as a result exploding ammunition from the depot.[11]

Georgian abandonment[edit]

A Georgian military base near Gori largely demolished by Russian troops.
Destroyed Georgian military base in Gori

By the evening of August 10, following a warning by the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs that Gori was "not safe", large numbers of the civilian population began to flee the city.[12] The next day, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said about 56,000 people have fled the Gori District.[2]

The Georgian Army expected that the Russians would attempt to take Gori, and Georgian troops, armored vehicles, and heavy artillery took positions 25 kilometers north of Gori, and anti-aircraft units were stationed inside the city.[13][verification needed] Following its defeat at Tskhinvali, the Georgian Army regrouped at Gori.[14] The Russian attacks were met with Georgian artillery firing towards South Ossetia, and six Georgian helicopters were reported to have also attacked targets inside South Ossetia.[15]

After the Georgian officials claimed that Russians advance towards Gori was imminent, Georgian forces began to retreat to Tbilisi. At 5 p.m. on 12 August, the Georgian Army began abandoning the city.[15][16] A Times reporter described the Georgian withdrawal as "sudden and dramatic", saying that the "residents watched in horror" as their army abandoned their positions.[15] According to Moscow Defense Brief, the retreat of the Georgian army from Gori soon grew into "a panicked flight" almost all the way to Tbilisi.[14] Scores of Georgian tanks and armored personnel carries fled to Tbilisi. A tank exploded on the mountain road and burned due to unspecified reasons, and an armored car pushing it out of the way also caught fire.[15] Georgian infantry fled the city by any means available. Five soldiers escaped the city on one Quad bike.[15]

The final air attacks[edit]

On August 12, a Dutch television journalist Stan Storimans was killed and several other foreigners injured when Russian warplanes bombed the central district of the city. As a result of the explosion total 7 people were killed, over 30 were injured. Georgian officials say Russian forces had been targeting the city's administrative buildings and claimed that the university of Gori and its post office were on fire after the bombings.[1][17] A helicopter-fired air-to-ground missile also struck the Gori Military Hospital,[18] despite the fact that Red Cross flag was flying over the roof, killing doctor Goga Abramishvili.[19]

President Mikheil Saakashvili said his country had been sliced in half with the capture of a critical highway crossroads near Gori.[20]

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international rights group, accused Russia of deploying controversial and indiscriminately deadly cluster bombs in civilian areas during the 2008 conflict. HRW said that Russian aircraft had dropped RBK-250 cluster bombs, each containing 30 PTAB 2.5M submunitions or bomblets on the town of Ruisi in the Kareli district of Georgia, on August 12. On the same day a cluster strike in the centre of Gori killed killing at least eight civilians, including Stan Storimans and injuring dozens more.[21]

Russian military official denied using cluster munitions, calling the assertion "slanderous".[22] Numerous unexploded submunitions were subsequently found by local population and the HRW.[23] The objectivity of Human Rights Watch has repeatedly been questioned by Russia.[22][24] Later, according to the Russian sources, Georgia has officially recognized the Georgian aviation use of cluster bombs.[25]

Russian occupation[edit]

Around the 13 August Russian ground forces have entered Gori.[15][26][27] Gori was completely clear of Georgian forces when the Russians entered. On August 14, the Russian Ministry of Defence official Vyacheslav Borisov claimed that the city of Gori was controlled jointly by Georgian Police and Russian troops. He further said that Russian troops would start leaving Gori in two days.[28] He also claimed the residents of Gori were not disturbed by the Russians' presence.[29] Sergey Lavrov said that when Georgian troops abandoned their military headquarters near Gori, they left "a major arsenal of armaments and military equipment" and that the Russian troops were now guarding it.[30] Russian troops said they were removing military hardware and ammunition from an arms depot outside Gori.[31] Russian forces also captured numerous abandoned tanks, destroying 20 and taking away the rest.[32]

A Russian armored column left Gori, traveling along the main road to Tbilisi. Russian forces then halted their advance and camped out in a field about an hour's drive from Tbilisi. Georgian forces took defensive positions on the road six miles (about 10 km) closer to Tbilisi.[33][34][verification needed] The following day, Russian forces pushed to 34 miles (55 km) from Tbilisi, the closest during the war; they stopped in Igoeti 41°59′22″N 44°25′04″E / 41.98944°N 44.41778°E / 41.98944; 44.41778.[35]

The Russian forces denied access to some humanitarian aid missions seeking to assist civilians. The United Nations, which has described the humanitarian situation in Gori as "desperate," was able to deliver only limited food supplies to the city.[36] On August 15, Russian troops allowed a number of humanitarian supplies into the city but continued their blockade of the strategically located city.[37] Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, denied that Russian troops were occupying Gori, saying that Russian soldiers "are not in Gori, have never been in Gori and do not occupy Gori," and rejecting news reports that the town was in ruins.[38]

On 14 August, efforts to institute joint patrols between the Russian Army and Georgian Police in Gori broke down because of apparent discord among personnel.[39][40] A Russian lieutenant said on 14 August: "We have to be honest. The Ossetians are marauding."[41] Answering a journalist's question, a Russian lieutenant colonel said: "We're not a police force, we're a military force. It's not our job to do police work."[41] The New York Times noted, that "the Russian military might be making efforts in some places to stop the rampaging".[41]

In the August 17 report, HRW said the organization's researchers interviewed ethnic Georgians from the city of Gori and surrounding villages who described how armed Ossetian pro-Russian militias attacked their cars and kidnapped civilians as people tried to flee in response to militia attacks on their homes following the Russian advance into the area. Numerous crimes against humanity or war crimes have been committed by Ossetian militias. In phone interviews, people remaining in Gori region villages told HRW that they had witnessed looting and arson attacks by Ossetian militias in their villages, but were afraid to leave after learning about militia attacks on those who fled.[36] According to the Hague Convention, an occupying power has to insure public order and safety in the occupied areas.[42] The Russian human rights group Memorial called the attacks by South Ossetian militia "pogroms".[43]

Georgian special forces in traveling pickup trucks repeatedly approached Gori to survey Russian positions, while Georgian Police set up roadblocks to prevent civilians from returning to the Russian-occupied city.[44][verification needed]

Russian pull out of Gori[edit]

The last Russian military formations left the city late on August 22, 2008, and Georgian law enforcement units moved into Gori shortly thereafter.[3][45] Gigi Ugulava, the mayor of Tbilisi, said that the authorities would arrange "an organized return" of tens of thousands of displaced persons to Gori. The closest Russian checkpoint remaining in the vicinity of Gori was located in the village of Karaleti, just five kilometers from the town.[3]


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