Shaun Walker (The Independent, Moscow): Viewing Georgia from both sides


Even though some eight months have passed since Russia's war with Georgia over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, both parties are still feeling its consequences and remain very sensitive to interpretations of these events that appear in the media. While the Russians continue to blame the Georgians' aggression (and even made a movie about it), the Georgians insist that they have fallen victim to a bully. Anyone who believes the truth to be somewhere in between is said to belong to the enemy camp.

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Probably nothing has done more to convince many Russians that the Western media are anti-Russian; meanwhile the one-sidedness of Russia Today or other Russian TV channels on the conflict leaves me feeling queasy.

But contrary to what many Russians seem to think, suggesting that Russia may not have covered itself in glory in South Ossetia doesn't imply support for Saakashvili.

I've always been a bit of a Saakashvili-sceptic, and it's true that a lot of the Western reporting on Georgia before last summer was rather naive and tended to take all the noble words the Georgian president said about democracy and neo-imperialism at face value, while ignoring some of the less savoury aspects of his regime.

But I think that since the war, the Western media - or the printed media at least - have struck a reasonable balance, reporting on the atrocities that were carried out by Ossetians under the eyes of Russian troops, covering various pieces of evidence that suggest that Russia was looking to provoke a conflict all along, while at the same time accepting that Georgia was responsible for sparking the war and waking up to the real nature of Saakashvili's regime.

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As so often in international relations, the truth is surely that both sides behaved appallingly. Last year's war was rather like an obnoxious little kid picking a fight with the school bully and getting crushed. That the bully had been behaving badly before doesn't make the kid any less obnoxious, and vice versa."

Read the full article on Moscow News.

Shaun Walker is the Moscow correspondent of The Independent

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