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DC Gets Live Briefing from Tbilisi, Prague

(Tbilisi/Washington/Prague) An audience at RFE/RL’s Washington, DC office this morning participated in a live hookup between Washington, Tbilisi and Prague to discuss the week-long conflict between Russia and Georgia.

[Watch the briefing on C-SPAN; transcript]

Via teleconference from Tbilisi, RFE/RL’s Tbilisi Bureau Chief, Marina Vashakmadze, told the group that “average Georgians are looking to the international community and the United States in particular for support against what they perceive as naked Russian aggression. Our listeners are saying that they’re especially grateful to the US for being the first country to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgians,” she said.

Joining the discussion via video from RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters, RFE/RL Georgian Service Director David Kakabadze relayed a conversation he had moments earlier with one of his journalists in Gori. “Our military affairs correspondent, Koba Liklikadze, is reporting that Russian tanks are moving east, in the direction of Tbilisi, rather than north towards Russia as the ceasefire terms called for,” he said. “The Russians claim they’re repositioning their forces in order to secure a route for their withdrawal, but Koba says that many Georgian citizens don’t believe that and are fleeing their homes in a panic.”

[Visit RFE/RL’s Georgia Crisis Page, a comprehensive site with the latest news, analysis, photos and video of the conflict]

In Washington, Senior RFE/RL Analyst Daniel Kimmage said Russia’s aims are clear. “Moscow’s target audience is not Washington,” he said. “Putin’s primary aim is to demonstrate to countries of the former Soviet Union that Russia is the only outside power that can and will use military force to defend its interests in the region.”

The briefing was moderated by RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin, who thanked his colleagues in Tbilisi for their “long, dangerous hours of work in pursuit of delivering Georgians objective news and information, free of bias.”

Since the fighting broke out, RFE/RL’s Tbilisi bureau has deployed correspondents throughout the country, reporting from the front lines of the battle zones [See exclusive photos of the town of Gori under attack].

“With the Russian and Georgian media providing, at times, wildly different accounts of what is actually happening on the ground, our listeners depend on us for accurate, objective information,” said Kakabadze. “Our journalists are sorting through the ethnic and nationalist passions stirred up by this conflict in order to let people on both sides of the conflict know what is really taking place in their cities.”

On the air since March 1953, RFE/RL’s Georgian Service has established a tradition for high professional standards for its news reporting. Since 1997, RFE/RL has maintained a bureau in Tbilisi.