November 25, 2008 / 6:46 PM / in 10 years

Georgia war hearing marred by angry exchanges

By Margarita Antidze and Matt Robinson

TBILISI, Nov 25 (Reuters) - A Georgian parliament hearing into the country’s war with Russia broke up in angry scenes on Tuesday when a commission member threw a pen at Tbilisi’s ex-envoy to Moscow after he said Georgia had been the aggressor.

Russia says it intervened in ex-Soviet Georgia after Tbilisi began shelling the breakaway South Ossetia region. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili accused Russia of invading and thus starting the war.

Erosi Kitsmarishvili, Georgia’s former ambassador to Russia, told the parliamentary commission he had received information "from high-ranking Georgian officials" that Tbilisi was preparing to "militarily storm" the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali.

"Russia was ready for this war, but the Georgian leadership started the military action first," he said.

Objecting to Kitsmarishvili’s testimony, commission member Givi Targamadze — a member of Saakashvili’s party — threw his pen at the former ambassador and had to be restrained when he charged towards him. Kistmarishvili walked out.

The chairman of the bi-partisan commission, opposition lawmaker Paata Davitaia, said the former ambassador’s statements were "irresponsible".

Kitsmarishvili told reporters: "They don’t want to hear the truth."

Russia and ex-Soviet Georgia have been waging a campaign to paint the other as the aggressor in the five-day war.

Western governments condemned Russia’s intervention — sending troops further into Georgia and laying down buffer zones — as "disproportionate", but also criticised Georgia’s military offensive of Aug. 7 against Tskhinvali.

Kitsmarishvili had been recalled from Moscow several weeks before the war after Russia admitted sending fighter jets into Georgian airspace. He was previously a close ally of Saakashvili.

Saakashvili’s opposition critics accuse him of walking into a war Georgia could not possibly win. Tens of thousands of Georgian refugees remain homeless and diplomats say the country’s NATO ambitions have been seriously damaged.

Saakashvili is due to testify before the commission on Friday. (Editing by Matthew Jones)

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