The South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoity has welcomed this week’s BBC report on events in the break-away republic in August when Georgian troops attacked the capital Tskhinvali, sparking a brief war between Georgia and Russia.
The report by correspondent Tim Whewall – broadcast on the World Service, Radio 4, Newsnight and the 10 o’clock television news – suggested that Georgia attacked innocent civilians during its assault on Tskhinvali on 9 August.
Whewall was the first foreign journalist to obtain unrestricted access to South Ossetia since the war ended and interviewed several witnesses who claimed the Georgian army had committed atrocities, he also talked to representatives from all sides in the conflict.
Kokoity said he was pleased that Whewall had aired the South Ossetian version of events in August.
He told the Russian news service RIA Novosti that as a result of the BBC’s coverage: “More people in the West have begun to learn the truth about the genocide in South Ossetia and Georgia’s aggression.”
However, Whewall himself said that talk of genocide was not credible.
He told the BBC’s Russian service that: “Although the city [Tskhinvali] did genuinely suffer [as the result of bombardment by the Georgia army] it was not completely destroyed.
“The Ossetians were victims and this has been confirmed but not to the extent suggested by Moscow. The genocide claimed by the Russian media did not in fact occur. Such absurd notions cannot be given credence.”
Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili denied that his forces had committed any atrocities during the war.
He said: “Although war crimes did happen they were not perpetrated by us.”