Sitting here in a hotel room in the Armenian capital Yerevan, waiting for my flight to Moscow tomorrow, I've been thinking of all the places I've been in the last two weeks and the people I met along the way. We'd been reporting on the situation in Abkhazia, one of the two breakaway regions of Georgia that have been at the center of the last week of fighting between Georgia and Russia. I've traveled widely in this time, all the way from Sukhumi, the Abkhaz capital, to Yerevan, overland.
If there was any lingering concern as to whether or not I should leave Georgia yesterday in a US Embassy convoy, it was erased by the huge, booming explosion that woke me from a sound sleep at 430am - followed shortly thereafter by a series of smaller blasts. I learned hours later that it had been the Russian bombing of a radar installation on a hill over Tbilisi. It sounded like it had been just next door.
Pulitzer Center Executive director discusses Georgia-Russia war with anchor Shihab Rattansi of Al Jazeera English's Washington Broadcast Center. Sawyer reported from Georgia and the southern Caucasus in 2006 for the Pulitzer Center.
TBILISI, Georgia -- For the Russians he is a scary figure. A cunning eastern despot whose main purpose is to humiliate and to outsmart them. They have disliked Mikheil Saakashvili, young president of Georgia, since he grabbed power following the famous Rose Revolution in November 2003.
This morning foreign embassies began evacuating their citizens from Georgia, having decided that the situation here is too unpredictable and that foreign nationals should leave.
Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, for the Pulitzer Center
For the Russians he is a scary figure. A cunning eastern despot whose main purpose is to humiliate and to outsmart them. They have disliked Mikheil Saakashvili, young president of Georgia, since he grabbed power following the famous Rose Revolution in November 2003.
Gori, Georgia (near South Ossetia). A ditch left by Russian bombs. Photograph by Zygmunt Dzieciolowski.
Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, our print reporter working with video journalists Jason Maloney and Kira Kay on the Caucasus conflicts project, was interviewed by Radio Liberty about the war (in Russian).
Interview with Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, by Mumin Shakirof for Liberty Radio
Excerpt translation by Irina Gotman
The president of Georgia declared martial law in the country. Foreign embassies evacuated their staffs from Tbilisi amid fears of Russian aerial attacks.
Jon Sawyer, Pulitzer Center
Today, someone I was interviewing here in the Georgian capital mused: "If the Americans bombed Belgrade to stop violence against Albanians in Kosovo, why wouldn't Russia bomb Tbilisi to stop violence against Ossetians?" The question made a bit of sense and, increasingly today, it appeared to be something that weighed on minds here.
In the war between Georgia and its renegade provinces, Russia is cooking up its own soup.
The Georgian president wanted to finally fuflfill his dream when he sent his troops in last week on a mission against South Ossetia. Ever since Michail Saakaschwili came to power in November 2003 through the "Rose Revolution," his priorities have been clear: more important than economic reform, joining NATO and the fight against corruption were the reconquest of the renegade provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. ...
I'm here in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, working on a larger project that is looking at the ways in which Russia deals with internal conflict issues. Georgia's two hot spots, the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, have both attracted a great deal of (almost neo-colonial, some say) support from Moscow in recent years and Georgia has increasingly been referring to their separatist conflicts as being directed by Russia, who use the Abkhaz or South Ossetian de facto governments as pawns.