Georgia sought to show the world that it has no military build-up in South Ossetia by inviting foreign reporters and diplomats on a trip to the Tbilisi-controlled areas of the conflict zone on August 5.
“The visit aimed at acquainting foreign diplomats and international media, and naturally Georgian journalists, with the situation on the ground,” Eka Zguladze, the Georgian deputy interior minister, said. “When we say that we are not preparing for war, it means that we are not preparing for war. Not a single Georgian post has been reinforced; no additional troops have been deployed.”
Russian ambassador in Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko was among those in the group.
The Georgian Public Broadcaster aired footage showing the Russian ambassador speaking to a Georgian resident, which later grew into an angry exchange between the diplomat and a Georgian official.
“I do not know what would happen if peacekeepers were not here; would your children be here? So don’t swear at peacekeepers,” Kovalenko told the woman.
“But where are those peacekeepers when our villages are being shelled?” the woman asked.
Kovalenko replied: “General [Marat] Kulakhmetov [commander of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces in the South Ossetian conflict zone] has saved many Georgian lifes.”
At that point, Mamuka Kurashvili, an official from the Georgian Defense Ministry in charge of overseeing peacekeeping operations in the conflict zones, intervened, telling the Russian ambassador: “Don’t try to fool the people.”
“I am not talking to you - I have already listened to you on the TV; let me speak with [the locals],” the Russian ambassador responded.