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EU Launches Probe to Find Truth Behind Georgia-Russia War

An EU probe into the August war between Russia and Georgia was formally launched Tuesday, Dec. 2, tasked with ascertaining the origins and unfolding of the conflict.

Russian soldiers with a Russian flag sit atop amored vehicle as they pull out of their positions heading to Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia

Russia's troop presence in Georgia will come under the microscope

Heidi Tagliavini, former UN special representative to Georgia, will head the enquiry, which will consist of 10 "recognized experts" handpicked to dissect the facts surrounding events leading to and during the war.

The team will draw on military, history, legal and human rights expertise and has until July 31, 2009, to present its conclusions to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), EU nations, Georgia and Russia.

Both Russia and Georgia have accused each other of initial aggression in fighting that broke out in and around the rebel Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Blame game

Moscow maintains it was protecting pro-Russian South Ossetians from a Georgian attack launched on South Ossetia on Aug. 7 which was aimed at reasserting Tbilisi's control over the rebel enclave.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, left

Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Saakashvili, left, have accused each other's country of atrocities

Georgia, however, says it was reacting to Russian aggression and Moscow's drive to reaffirm control over its traditional sphere of influence, the Caucasus.

Moscow was heavily criticized by the EU and US for using disproportionate force during the conflict.

The success of the EU fact-finding mission hinges on gaining access to both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in which Russia has maintained a troop presence since fighting stopped.

"The Russians have said that they are in favor of this sort of enquiry," a spokesman for the French EU presidency said Tuesday. "We hope that will translate into effective support for the work of this mission."

Hold Russia accountable: Saakashvili

The launch of the mission coincided with re-opened high-level talks on a new strategy treaty between the European Union and Russia on Tuesday that was frozen in September to protest Russia's invasion of Georgia.

In an appeal ahead of the talks, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said a return to "business as usual" with Russia would jeopardize future stability in the Caucasus.

"If the international response is not firm, Moscow will make other moves to redraw the region's map by intimidation or force," Saakashvili wrote in an article published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

"We should make sure we do not sacrifice democracies like Georgia that are trying to make this critical part of the world more stable, secure and free," he said.

Heidi Tagliavini, former UN special representative to Georgia, will head the enquiry, which will consist of 10 "recognized experts" handpicked to dissect the facts surrounding events leading to and during the war.

The team will draw on military, history, legal and human rights expertise and has until July 31, 2009, to present its conclusions to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), EU nations, Georgia and Russia.

Both Russia and Georgia have accused each other of initial aggression in fighting that broke out in and around the rebel Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Blame game

Moscow maintains it was protecting pro-Russian Ossetians from a Georgian attack launched on South Ossetia on Aug. 7 which was aimed at reasserting Tbilisi's control over the rebel enclave.

Georgia, however, says it was reacting to Russian aggression and Moscow's drive to reaffirm control over its traditional sphere of influence, the Caucasus.

Moscow was heavily criticized by the EU and US for using disproportionate force during the conflict.

The success of the EU fact-finding mission hinges on gaining access to both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in which Russia has maintained a troop presence since fighting stopped.

"The Russians have said that they are in favor of this sort of enquiry. We hope that will translate into effective support for the work of this mission," a spokesman for the French EU presidency said Tuesday.

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