Wednesday 13 August 2008
by: Ellen Barry, The New York Times
Moscow - With the fragile truce in Georgia on the brink of collapse Wednesday, President Bush announced that the United States had begun a humanitarian aid mission there and said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go to the region to work for a settlement of the conflict with Russia.
Nerves frayed all day after a Russian tank battalion occupied the Georgian city of Gori, a move Georgia condemned as flagrant defiance of a Western-brokered agreement struck only hours earlier. Gori is only 40 miles from Tbilisi, the capital, and rumors circulated all day of an attack on Tbilisi. Meanwhile, hundreds of Russian soldiers poured over the border from Russia into the separatist enclave of South Ossetia, where attack helicopters and fuel trucks accompanied a long convoy of trucks.
With Mr. Bush's announcement, the United States signaled its most active involvement in a long-simmering border conflict between Georgia and Russia that flared into open fighting last week. The conflict escalated precipitously into a cold- war-style standoff between Russia and the West.