Gorbachev blames Georgia for starting war against South Ossetia

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Moscow, Aug 15 (UNI) Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has blamed Georgia for starting the war against its breakaway region of South Ossetia, saying there was no doubt Tbilisi provoked the clash.

Mr Gorbachev told CNN's Larry King that Russia moved additional forces into South Ossetia in response to ''devastation'' in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali.

''This was the use of sophisticated weapons against a small town, sleeping people and was a barbaric assault,'' Mr Gorbachev said.

He said the West appears to have been aware of Georgia's plans to seize the rebel region.

''Western television did not show what happened in Tskhinvali,'' Mr Gorbachev said, adding, ''Only now they are beginning to show some pictures of the destruction. So this looks to me like it was a well-prepared project. They wanted to put the blame on Russia.'' Mr Gorbachev called Georgia's claims that Russia was attempting to dismantle its democracy 'all lies from beginning to end.' Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who also appeared on CNN's Larry King Live, said he was 'profoundly shocked' that Mr Gorbachev would use a television appearance 'for basically vindicating lies and deceptions.' Last week, Georgia said it launched an operation into South Ossetia after a ceasefire was broken with artillery fire from Russian separatists that killed 10 people including civilians and peacekeepers. It accused Russia, which also has peacekeepers in the region, of backing the separatists.

Hours later, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that Russian authorities said 10 Russian peacekeepers had been killed and 30 wounded in an attack by Georgians.

In response, Mr Saakashvili expressed disappointment with the sentiments from Mr Gorbachev, who he said he once respected.

''Mr Gorbachev helped bring down the KGB kingdom. And he is the one who is justifying what the KGB people are doing right now in my country,'' Mr Saakashvili said.

''Shame on him for perpetuating the very regime he helped to defeat and fought against as the head of the Soviet Union,'' the Georgian President said.

Mr Gorbachev also said the US is jeopardizing its fragile relationship with Russia by backing Georgia.

''There is a chance for our two countries to develop a new agenda for cooperation so as to promote both US and Russian interests, and the interests of other countries, and the interests of stability, particularly in the hotspots in different continents,'' Mr Gorbachev said.

UNI XC PD BST1959

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