In a bid to portray Russia as the aggressor in last month's war, Georgia has released recordings of what it says are two intercepted cell phone calls purporting to show that Moscow invaded before Georgia's offensive against South Ossetia.
The recordings released Tuesday, if authentic, will not cut through the fog of the final hours when escalating tensions burst into war. But President Mikhail Saakashvili hopes they will help dispel a dominant narrative that says his country was on the attack. He said they prove Russian tanks and troops entered South Ossetia many hours before Georgia began its offensive against separatist forces.
Together, the two purported intercepts last less than two minutes. But so far, they are Saakashvili's best argument in his bid to turn the tables against Russia.
Russia has always cast Georgia as the aggressor, saying it only responded militarily to defend Russian citizens and peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia from a Georgian offensive that began late on Aug. 7.
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Georgia says the intercepted phone calls show Russian forces entered South Ossetia before dawn that day.
The calls are between a South Ossetian border guard at the southern mouth of the Roki tunnel, which leads across the mountainous border from Russia into the separatist Georgian province, and another guard at headquarters in the regional capital, Georgia says.
The authenticity of the recordings could not immediately be verified.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko dismissed the Georgian claim as “not serious.” He said any major troop movements would have been easily tracked by satellites used by NATO nations.