Your morning Confrontation in the Caucasus (somebody tell me if CNN picks up that catchy alliteration, so I can sue) update:
- Georgia claims to have shot down ten Russian aircraft; the Russians say they’ve lost two. Significant Russian air attacks over Georgia, which makes me suspect that the losses are from SAMs.
- Russian paratroopers are in Tskhinvali; don’t know whether they got there by foot or by airdrop.
- The Russians claim that they’ve taken Tskhinvali, while the Georgians disagree. If Tskhinvali is in dispute at this point, then things are not going well for Georgia.
- As predicted, neither Putin-Medvedev nor Saakashvili are backing down. [Update: Georgia is asking for a ceasefire, but without details of what’s going on in South Ossetia, hard to know what that means. Georgia is also apparently withdrawing its troops from Iraq. Thx, Cernig.]
- Among other targets, the Russians are bombing the city of Gori, where Georgian troops are massing. Let’s hope they avoid the Stalin Museum.
- Death toll is running as high as 1600. Long time fans of political science will note that this means the Confrontation in the Caucasus is now a legitimate, genuine interstate war.
…this is illuminating:
Russian Gen. Vladimir Boldyrev claimed in televised comments Saturday that Russian troops had driven Georgian forces out of the provincial capital. Witnesses confirmed that there was no sign of Georgian soldiers in the streets.
Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili proposed a cease-fire Saturday. As part of his proposal, Georgian troops were pulled out of Tskhinvali and had been ordered to stop responding to Russian shelling, said Alexander Lomaia, secretary of his Security Council.
Russia did not immediately respond to Saakashvili’s proposal. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had said earlier that Moscow sent troops into South Ossetia to force Georgia into a cease-fire.
Just a couple of hours ago, the Georgians were claiming that they controlled Tskhinvali. I wonder if cooler heads have prevailed in Tblisi.
…This Der Spiegel report highlights the true threat of Abkhaz participation in the war. The problem isn’t that the Abkhaz might head to South Ossetia and join the fighting, because the Russians aren’t exactly facing a manpower crisis. The problem is that the Abkhaz might open a second front, threatening Georgia’s flank and preventing it from deploying additional forces to South Ossetia.
…Dan Nexon has plenty of additional analysis here.
…Reports indicate that the Black Sea Fleet is moving near Abkhazia. This is a substantial force.… the Georgians seem to think that an amphibious assault is going to take place. This would be extremely surprising, although the Black Sea Fleet does have some small, aging landing vessels.
…NYT says Russian television reported 650 armored vehicles entering South Ossetia from Russia. Putin has returned from China. This, to put it mildly, could get very ugly.