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19 Aug, 2008 14:04

Rights group fails to prove Saakashvili claims

Aid workers from Human Rights Watch have cast doubts over Georgian claims that Russian forces destroyed the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. In interviews with Western broadcasters, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has consistently accused Russia

The Georgian president is seen in many ways. And for one Youtube contributor it’s as a liar, or someone who is willing to do anything to get his country into NATO and the EU and keep the US at his side.

He is accused of saying anything to win the West’s support – even when he knows it’s not true. He has claimed that Russian forces ‘levelled’ Tskhinvali. And he says the well-respected independent organisation –Human Rights Watch – has the data to prove it.

However, Human Rights Watch itself has a different take on events. It says eyewitness accounts suggest Georgian fire wrecked the city.

“Human Rights Watch cannot definitely attribute specific battle damage to a particular belligerent, but witness accounts and the timing of the damage would point to Georgian fire accounting for much of the damage,” its website said.

Those who were in Tskhinvali also tell a completely different story.

Tatyana Lukshena is a Russian researcher with Human Rights Watch.

“I’ve just returned from Tskhinvali and I was quite surprised by Mr. Saakashvili's comments to CNN, saying that it was the Russian side that destroyed Tskhinvali. HRW never had any such evidence!”

Just before the attack on South Ossetia the Georgian president called for peace and dialogue on national television. But the shelling began soon after.

Saakashvili continues to make daily appearances on Western media networks.