I found references to fighting between Georgia and it’s breakaway province dating back as far as 1918. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, South Ossetia declared itself independent of newly independent Georgia. Clearly there is no love lost between the two. There has been a peacekeeping force, consisting of South Ossetian, Georgian and Russian troops in the territory since some time in the 1990s.
There are many ethnic Russians living in South Osetia as there are in the other disputed area of Georgia, Abkhazia. Many of these people hold Russian passports, although they may have been born and lived their lives within Georgian territory. There have been numerous incidents involving both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, shootings, mortar attacks, flyovers of one or anther’s territory by military airplanes. Ususally they are followed by a he said/she said argument about who is to blame. In July there was a large flap over a Georgian claim of a Russian MIG in Georgian airspace near Abkhazia.
So what was the incident that prompted Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to order a full scale invasion of South Ossetia on August 8th? Nada, zip, bupkiss. As far as I have been able to determine this military operation was intended to be a surprise attack.
So who started this mess? Mikheil Saakashvili did. Why? Beats the heck out of me. Because he wanted to lose any chance of joining NATO?