BRUSSELS: An investigating team blames Georgia for starting the war last year with Russia but accuses Moscow of escalating tensions ahead of the conflict, a source close to the inquiry said on Wednesday.

The commission, in a long awaited report ordered by the European Union in December, concluded that Georgia had sparked the war in August 2008 with an attack on its breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Russia was blamed for provocation that ratcheted up tensions in the weeks before the night of August 7, when the five-day war in the former Soviet state broke out.

Ahead of the report's release, EU observers had stepped up patrols in Georgia, amid concern the findings could inflame tensions.

"The responsibility is shared between the two parties concerned," the source told AFP, on condition of anonymity, confirming the opinions of experts and officials that nothing earth-shattering would be uncovered.

Speaking just before the report was handed to EU ambassadors in Brussels, the source confirmed that Tbilisi had not struck at South Ossetia in response to an invasion by Russian troops, as Georgian leaders have claimed.

The 19-member investigating team, led by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavina, insisted that Russia had intentionally escalated the conflict in South Ossetia and the other separatist region of Abkhazia.

Among the tactics, Moscow distributed Russian passports to residents there.

"The report contains quite clear and definitive answers to the questions asked about what happened, as well as an evaluation of the political context. No question is left unanswered," the source said.

He said both sides had been cooperative in responding to the commission's extensive list of questions, but that "there were nevertheless a lot of contradictions between the answers received from the two parties."

The commission does not want its findings to be used as a basis for any legal action, he said.

Both Georgia and Russia are likely to claim that the findings vindicate their actions during the war in which at least 250 people were killed and some 118,000 others forced from their homes.

Officials and experts expect the European Union to refrain from pointing the finger.

Moscow's decision to send scores of tanks into South Ossetia has been widely condemned, as has its recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

But no one wants to anger Moscow as the European Union and NATO work hard to smooth over ties, and while Russia's help is needed to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions and fight insurgents in Afghanistan.

Yet the European Union cannot be seen to ignore violations of sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the ex-Soviet republic, whose chances of joining the world's biggest military alliance now lie in tatters.

The mission -- with a budget of 1.6 million euros (2.34 million dollars) -- was launched in December "to investigate the origins and the course of the conflict", including under international law and possible war crimes.