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    U.K. monitors say Georgia attacked first - paper

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    Two former British military officers are expected to provide crucial evidence that the conflict in South Ossetia was unleashed by Georgia, a British newspaper said on Sunday.

    LONDON, November 9 (RIA Novosti) - Two former British military officers are expected to provide crucial evidence that the conflict in South Ossetia was unleashed by Georgia, a British newspaper said on Sunday.

    Georgia launched an attack on South Ossetia to seize control of the breakaway republic on the night of August 7-8, sparking a five-day war with Russia. Russia then recognized South Ossetia, along with Georgia's other separatist republic, Abkhazia, as independent states. Georgia claims the conflict was provoked by Russia.

    "Ryan Grist, a former British Army captain, and Stephen Young, a former RAF wing commander, are said to have concluded that, before the Russian bombardment began, Georgian rockets and artillery were hitting civilian areas in the breakaway region of South Ossetia every 15 or 20 seconds," The Sunday Times reported.

    According to the paper, the accounts by the two former British officers, who were senior figures in the mission deployed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the conflict area, seem likely to undermine the U.S.-backed claims of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili that his little country was the innocent victim of Russian aggression.

    According to the paper, the British officers are expected to give their account of the war in South Ossetia when an international inquiry is convened to establish who started the five-day armed conflict.

    "The inquiry comes as the EU softens its hardline position towards Russia amid mounting European scepticism about Saakashvili's judgment," the paper said.

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