UPDATE I / WS
Screenshots from video, courtesy of the BBC:
These would appear to be Russia's main battle tanks, the T-90s:
Russian self-propelled artillery guns (the 2s3 152mm?):
Russian troops in BMP armored personnel carriers:
The Associated Press is reporting that:
Russian television says Russian troops are moving into South Ossetia.
And the region is in turmoil.
Russian authorities said several of its peacekeepers died in a Georgian attack in South Ossetia, which borders Russia and has strong ties to its vast northern neighbor, and they vowed not to leave Russian citizens in the territory unprotected.
"The Georgian leadership has launched a dirty adventure," a statement from Russia's Defense Ministry said on Friday. "We will not leave our peacekeepers and Russian citizens unprotected."
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Georgia started the fighting and warned that Russia would respond to their actions.
"Heavy weapons and artillery have been sent there, and tanks have been added. Deaths and injuries have been reported, including among Russian peacekeepers," Putin said in comments carried Friday by Russia's Interfax news agency.
"It's all very sad and alarming. And, of course, there will be a response."
Earlier Friday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in a televised statement that Russian aircraft bombed several Georgian villages and other civilian facilities.
We will watch what happens through the day and the weekend--this could end up being the biggest story of the month, Olympics notwithstanding.
Americans shouldn't worry--Secretary of State Rice was just there last month and straightened everything out:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Georgia amid an escalating row between Russia, Georgia and the United States.
Russia accused Georgia of bringing the South Caucasus to the brink of armed conflict - comments which both Ms Rice and Nato condemned as "unhelpful".
See? She said it was "unhelpful." And that took care of the problem.
On August 2nd, Secretary Rice appeared at the Aspen Music Festival. I'm glad she has had the opportunity to take time out of her busy schedule and attend to important things.
Here's yesterday's full mention of the issue in South Ossetia from the US State Department during its daily press briefing:
QUESTION: Gonzo, do you have anything about Ossetia?
MR. [Gonzalo R.] GALLEGOS: South Ossetia?
MR. GALLEGOS: I think so.
QUESTION: President Saakashvili -- you know, there were some victims, some fighting last night. And President Saakashvili said that the – he’s – he called several world leaders asking them for their help in maintaining peace. I wanted to know if he called Secretary Rice.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we’re – I don’t believe – I don’t have any further information. I don’t have it that he spoke to Secretary Rice. But we’re in close contact with senior Russian and Georgian officials. We’re urging Moscow to press South Ossetia’s de facto leaders to stop firing. We’re urging Tbilisi to maintain restraint. We’re very concerned about the situation. We call for an immediate end to the violence and for direct talks between the parties.
QUESTION: Do you think the South Ossetian people started the fighting, or who do you think is responsible?
MR. GALLEGOS: We think it’s important that both sides stop firing, that they sit down and they discuss this in a peaceful manner.
As you can see, "Gonzo" is on top of it. Your State Department at work, as fighting breaks out in a region where the warning signs were fairly evident earlier this year.
Russian military heavy equipment rolling into the region:
This situation is developing fast and the United States is in danger of getting sucked into it. Over at the most excellent and essential Newshoggers, I learned that the Georgians are recalling all forces in their control, including the combat brigade that is currently serving in Iraq as part of the Coalition forces.
They are asking for rapid response assistance and could ask the U.S. to airlift the brigade back to Georgia in USAF C-17s through the Tallil Airbase. That would put the U.S. on a hostile footing with yet another oil-producing nation - and this one has military prowess and battle-hardened troops, that make up a force that hasn't been decimated in the desert.
The Duck of Minerva has more.
The BBC, Fox News, and CBS news - three screenshots: