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How a flat tyre took Russia, Georgia to war

world Updated: Aug 17, 2008 23:54 IST

Agencies
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Though the simmering ethnic tensions and East-West brinkmanship in the Caucasus have been blamed for the war between Russia and Georgia, a deflated tyre of a Russian diplomat’s car is believed to have proved the final straw, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

According to the leading British newspaper, a flattened tyre of a Russian diplomatic car forced the cancellation of key peace talks between the sides before fighting erupted 10 days ago.

Though trouble had been brewing in the disputed South Ossetian region for weeks as Moscow-backed militias skirmished with Georgian troops, Russian-brokered negotiations between the Georgian government and the separatists continued.

But on August 7, the first substantial face-to-face talks failed following a farcical chain of events with a top Russian diplomat claiming that he could not attend the meeting in South Ossetia because his car tyre had run flat.

However, Georgian delegation to the peace talks could not take the diplomat’s excuse at face value and assumed that they were being lured into a trap.

The incident provoked Georgia to launch a military offensive in the region, inviting the Russian invasion, the British daily said, quoting Georgia’s chief negotiator Timur Yakobashvili. Yakobashvili said that he had travelled to Tskhinvali hoping a ground-breaking meeting, but neither Russian diplomat Yuri Popov, who was supposed to chair the talks, nor any South Ossetian officials turned up for talks.

Pullout to start on Monday: Russia

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Russian forces would begin their withdrawal from Georgia around midday on Monday.

Sarkozy rang Medvedev to warn of serious consequences for relations with the European Union if Russian forces do not pull out, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement both the side signed.