August 8, 2008
TSKHINVALI, Georgia (AP) — Georgia launched a major military offensive Friday to retake the breakaway province of South Ossetia, prompting Moscow to send tanks into the region in a furious response that threatens to engulf Georgia, a staunch U.S. ally, and Russia in all-out war.
Hundreds were reported dead in the worst outbreak of hostilities since the province won de-facto independence in a war against Georgia that ended in 1992. Witnesses said the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali was devastated.
“I saw bodies lying on the streets, around ruined buildings, in cars,” said Lyudmila Ostayeva, 50, who had fled with her family to Dzhava, a village near the border with Russia. “It’s impossible to count them now. There is hardly a single building left undamaged.”
The fighting broke out as much of the world’s attention was focused on the start of the Olympic Games and many leaders, including Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush, were on their way to Beijing.