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Gorbachev blames Georgia for provoking war, West for backing it

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Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has blamed Georgia for provoking hostilities in its breakaway region of South Ossetia and criticized Western states for backing Tbilisi.
WASHINGTON, August 15 (RIA Novosti) - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has blamed Georgia for provoking hostilities in its breakaway region of South Ossetia and criticized Western states for backing Tbilisi.

Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Thursday, Gorbachev said Russia had moved additional forces into South Ossetia in response to the "devastation" in the South Ossetia capital of Tskhinvali.

"This was the use of sophisticated weapons against a small town, against a sleeping people. This was a barbaric assault," Gorbachev told CNN.

The Soviet Union's last president and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Gorbachev said the West appears to have been aware of Georgia's plans to seize the province.

"Western television didn't show what happened in Tskhinvali," Gorbachev said on the program. "Only now they're beginning to show some pictures of the destruction. So this looks to me like it was a well-prepared project. They wanted to put the blame on Russia."

He called Georgia's claims that Russia was attempting to dismantle its democracy "all lies from beginning to end."

Many analysts have questioned Georgia's claims to be a "democratic, freedom-loving country," pointing to the use of baton-wielding, gas-masked riot police to put down a peaceful demonstration against Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili last November, and the subsequent closure of an opposition TV station.

Saakashvili has also been accused of ordering the murders of political opponents.

Georgia has said its attack on South Ossetia on August 8 was provoked by separatists who broke a ceasefire. South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers deployed in the region denied the claims, accusing Tbilisi of shelling the area.

Saakashvili, who also appeared on the program on Thursday, said he was disappointed with comments from Gorbachev, whom he said he once respected, calling them "basically vindicating lies and deceptions."

"This is the man, Mr. Gorbachev, who helped to, you know, bring down KGB kingdom. And he is the one who is, you know, justifying what the KGB people are doing right now in my country," Saakashvili said.

Gorbachev, who presided over perestroika that led to the breakup of the Soviet Union, has defended Russia in the conflict with Georgia in the Western media. In an article published in The Guardian earlier this week, he said Russia was forced to help its peacekeepers and protect civilians in South Ossetia.

Russia has accused the Western media of "bias" in it coverage of the conflict.

Western nations accused Russia of a "disproportionate" use of force in the Caucasus, saying its handling of the crisis would damage its place on the world scene.

Gorbachev also said on CNN that the United States was jeopardizing its fragile relationship with Russia by backing Georgia.

Larry King show viewers voted 71% to 29% against the U.S. getting involved in the conflict in Georgia.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch organization has accused both Russia and Georgia of "indiscriminate attacks" on civilians during the fighting.

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