I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Winston Churchill

Aug 31, 2008

Обращение лидеров ингушской оппозиции

Sorry to non-Russian speakers. It's only available in Russian. 

  

Ингушетия.Ru, 01.09.2008 00:10 

Генеральному Секретарю ООН

г-ну Пан Ги Муну

Копия

Верховному Комиссару Совета Европы

по правам человека

г-ну Томасу Хамембергу

Копия

Парламентской Ассамблее Совета Европы

Копия

ОБСЕ

Копия

Верховному Комиссару ООН по правам человека

г-же Луизе Арбур

Копия

Президенту Международной Хельсинкской

Федерации

г-ну Ульриху Фишеру

Копия

Президенту Российской Федерации

Дмитрию Анатольевичу Медведеву

Копия

Председателю Правительства Российской Федерации

Владимиру Владимировичу Путину

Копия

Председателю Госдумы Российской Федерации

Борису Грызлову

Копия

Министру обороны Российской Федерации

Анатолию Сердюкову

Копия

Председателю Московской Хельсинкской

группы по правам человека

Людмиле Михайловне Алексеевой

Копия

Директору ФСБ Российской Федерации

Александру Васильевичу Бортникову

Копия

Уполномоченному по правам человека

при Президенте Российской Федерации

Владимиру Петровичу Лукину

Копия

Генеральному Прокурору Российской Федерации

Юрию Яковлевичу Чайке

Копия

Председателю Комитета «Гражданское содействие»

Светлане Алексеевне Ганнушкиной

Копия

Эксперту Московской Хельсинкской группы

по Северному Кавказу

Асламбеку Масудовичу Апаеву

Копия

Председателю Российского Общества «Мемориал»

С.А. Ковалеву

Мировому сообществу

Председателя координационного Совета

Аушева Макшарипа Магомедовича

Председателя Мехк-Кхел

Котиева А.М.

Руководителя Оргкомитета по проведению

общенационального митинга

Хазбиева М.Х.


Обращение

Уважаемые дамы и господа!

31 августа в 13.30 при личном участии марионеточного президента Ингушетии Мурата Зязикова и министра МВД Республики Ингушетия Мусы Медова, убит владелец ингушского независимого сайта ingushetiya.ru Магомед Евлоев, жизнь которого была посвящена своему народу и который сумел прорвать информационную блокаду Ингушетии, и тем самым спасти жизни многих своих соотечественников. Это преступление было совершено на глазах десятков свидетелей и нет никакого сомнения в том, что внесудебная расправа над Магомедом — была заранее спланированной и продуманной акцией, с целью запугать представителей средств массовой информации и правозащитного движения Ингушетии. Убийство известного общественного деятеля, на наш взгляд, это продолжение политики террора и насилия на территории нашей республики, которая осуществляется при молчаливом согласии, и непосредственном участии нынешнего руководства Ингушетии. За последние несколько лет на территории Республики Ингушетия были убиты, похищены и пропали при невыясненных обстоятельствах сотни человек. Фактически речь сегодня идет о целенаправленных убийствах молодых людей и лиц, представляющих потенциальную опасность действующей власти, то есть геноциде.

Мы, представители ингушского народа, которым небезразлично прошлое и будущее нашего

маленького, свободолюбивого общества, с удивлением и негодованием встретили недавние высказывания руководства России о необходимости учреждения международного трибунала для привлечения к ответственности тех, «кто ответственен за массовые разрушения городов и сел «Южной Осетии», «кто дал соответствующее указание и кто их выполнял», в результате чего, «погибли сотни, а может быть и больше мирных, ни в чем неповинных людей, детей и женщин». По версии президента России Дмитрия Медведева, председателя Правительства Российской Федерации Владимира Путина, Государственной Думы и Совета Федерации, в Грузии, на территории «Южной Осетии», в отношении лиц осетинской национальности был осуществлен акт геноцида…

Кому, как не нам, ингушам знать – что такое геноцид… На протяжении последних семидесяти лет, в отношении ингушей и чеченцев, бывшее советское руководство, а теперь руководство «новой» и «демократической» России последовательно проводит целенаправленную акцию направленную на полное уничтожение наших народов, одновременно с этим пытаясь разобщить наше общество, используя для этого своих этнических ставленников - марионеток. Так, в октябре-ноябре 1992 года Российское руководство используя осетинское население, срежиссировала осетино-ингушский конфликт, когда авиация, танки, бронетехника, артиллерия, спецназ Российской Армии, за которыми шли созданные и обученные Москвой осетинские вооруженные формирования, провели этническую чистку в городе Владикавказ и Пригородном районе республики Северная Осетия – Алания. ( Территория, которая до депортации ингушей и чеченцев в 1944 года принадлежала Ингушской республике).Сотни ингушей –женщин, стариков, детей – были подвергнуты мучительной смерти (чему есть документальные подтверждения, хранящиеся в архивах), а десятки тысяч представителей ингушского народа насильно изгнаны из своих домов. С момента трагедии по сегодняшний день, никто в российском руководстве не говорил и не говорит ни о гуманитарной катастрофе, в которой все это время пребывают ингушские беженцы, ни о необходимости наказания тех, кто совершал, приказывал совершать и планировал данные преступления, оказывал пособничество престуникам и подстрекал к их совершению, а также отказывался принять меры к их пресечению и наказанию. Российское правосудие оказалось неспособным призвать к ответу преступников, а руководство страны – вернуть людей в места их постоянного проживания. Документы страшной осени 92 года свидетельствуют, что наиболее жестокие убийства, истязания и пытки в отношении ингушей совершались спецподразделениями ФСК (ныне ФСБ) и ГРУ Минобороны России вместе с представителями незаконных вооруженных формирований Южной Осетии. Убийства совершались с особой жестокостью и циничностью, для устрашения ингушского населения. Такие же немыслимые для человеческого восприятия зверства российские спецподразделения совершали и в ходе двух военных кампаний в Чечне. События, имевшие место в октябре-ноябре 1992 года, наглядно показали отношение российского руководства к нормам международного права и соблюдению собственных Законов и Конституции страны.

Необходимо напомнить, что в1924-м году столица Ингушетии город Владикавказ был разделен руководством СССР на две части, одну - оставили ингушам, другую-передали осетинской стороне. Затем зимой 1944 -го года ингушей и чеченцев депортировали в Сибирь и в северные районы республики Казахстан, в результате чего вайнахский народ (ингуши и

чеченцы) потерял половину своей численности . Столица Ингушетии город Владикавказ вместе с Пригородным районом были отняты у ингушского народа и переданы в состав Северной Осетии. В результате периодически осуществляемого геноцида ингушский народ, считавшийся одним из самых

образованных на Северном Кавказе отброшен в своем развитии на несколько

десятилетий назад И в настоящее время российское руководство продолжает заниматься уничтожением ингушского этноса.

В марте 2006 года Кремль перекрыл доступ ингушей в Джейрахско-Ассинский государственный историко-архитектурный и природный музей-заповедник официально ставший частью приграничной зоны России. Сегодня в Ингушетии без предъявления, каких бы то ни было обвинений, российские силовые структуры среди бела дня убивают молодых людей, похищают их и подвергают нечеловеческим пыткам. Очень многие их похищенных пропадают без вести. Спецслужбы России регулярно проводят в населенных пунктах республики незаконные «спецоперации», не неся при этом никакой ответственности за убийства и похищения людей

Попытки гражданского общества привлечь внимание к ингушской трагедии – митинги, пикеты, массовые мероприятия, проводимые на территории республики, жестоко подавляются, а инициаторы преследуются, подвергаются шантажу, покушениям и убийствам, как в случае с Магомедом Евлоевым. Политика двойных стандартов, осуществляемая российским руководством и откровенный геноцид ингушского народа толкают нас на принятие кардинальных решений и увеличивает число людей желающих выхода Ингушетии из состава Российской Федерации Российский Северный Кавказ находится под огромным прессингом силовых структур , а большинство из те, кто старался беспристрастно освещать проблемы Северного Кавказа были убиты или похищены «силовиками».. В связи со сложившийся ситуацией и тем что все карательные методы и все виды глумления над ингушским и чеченским народами российская власть испробовала и продолжает делать все, чтобы уничтожить и стереть нас с карты Кавказа, просим международное сообщество немедленно вмещаться в происходящее и остановить геноцид развернутый российским

государством против народов Северного Кавказа.

С уважением,

Председателькоординационного Совета

Аушев М. М.

Председатель Мехк-Кхел

Котиев А.М.

Руководитель Оргкомитета по проведению

общенационального митинга

Хазбиев М.Х.

საქართველო ჩვენია!Georgia is ours!

Ingushetia website owner killed

The owner of an internet site critical of the Russian authorities in the volatile region of Ingushetia has been shot dead after police detained him. 

Magomed Yevloyev, owner of the Ingushetiya.ru site, was a vocal critic of the region's Kremlin-backed administration. 

The Russian prosecutor's office said an investigation into the death had been launched, Interfax reported. 

A post on Yevloyev's site said he was detained at Ingushetia's airport. 

The website owner was taken to hospital but died from his injuries. 

Reports quoting local police said Yevloyev tried to seize a policeman's gun when he was being led to a vehicle. A shot was fired and Yevloyev was injured in the head. 

Human rights concerns 

The predominantly Muslim province borders Chechnya and has suffered from overflowing unrest. 

There is a low-level insurgency, with regular small-scale ambushes against police and soldiers. 

In June 2008, the Human Rights Watch group accused Russian security forces there of carrying out widespread human rights abuses. 

HRW said it had documented dozens of arbitrary detentions, disappearances, acts of torture and extra-judicial executions. 

BBC News

What Russia will do next

MOSCOW ORCHESTRATES WAR SCARE IN SOUTH OSSETIA

By Vladimir Socor 

Monday, August 4, 2008

Since July 31, Russian state television channels have been airing inflammatory stories about Georgian forces firing on South Ossetia’s administrative center Tskhinvali, inflicting civilian casualties and causing a refugee exodus to North Ossetia (Russian TV Channel One, Rossiya TV, NTV, Itar-Tass, July 31-August 3). The allegations are not verified by any independent source nor can they be, given Russia’s exclusion of any meaningful international monitoring in South Ossetia, disabling the OSCE and precluding Georgian air surveillance.

Moscow’s propaganda wave closely resembles previous ones in the continuing political warfare against Georgia. For their part, leaders in Tskhinvali threaten to escalate the hostilities deeper inside Georgian territory, using “their own forces,” that is, a proxy war. “We will force [the Georgians] out from the conflict zone ourselves. I state once again that we have the necessary troops and equipment [sil i sredstv] to do this,” the South Ossetian “president” Eduard Kokoity warned (South Ossetian Press and Information Committee, August 3).

The Russian-delegated “prime minister” and “security council secretary” of South Ossetia, Yuriy Morozov and Anatoly Barankevich, appeared on Russian television channels with lurid stories that Georgians had killed six South Ossetian civilians and wounded twice as many and that South Ossetian troops had in turn killed 29 Georgian soldiers. They also alleged that Georgians were forcing a mass exodus of children and women from South Ossetia to North Ossetia. These officials also threatened to take the hostilities deeper inside Georgia, with ostensibly South Ossetian forces (South Ossetian Press and Information Committee, Itar-Tass, August 1, 2).

North Ossetian leaders, meanwhile, seem unwilling to be dragged into a confrontation and are downplaying the anti-Georgian accusations. North Ossetian President Teymuraz Mansurov and other officials in Vladivkavkaz have not backed up those atrocity stories and have explicitly denied that any refugee exodus was under way (Interfax, July 31, August 1, 2).

Moscow has every interest in fostering a brink-of-war atmosphere. Having pressured Georgia heavily in Abkhazia in recent months while allowing a temporary lull in South Ossetia, Russia is now shifting the pressure onto this front. As in previous years, Moscow deems the month of August propitious for staging military incidents in Georgia, while European officials take their vacations. This year, however, may differ from previous ones in that Russian and proxy forces could stage the seasonal clashes both in Abkhazia and in South Ossetia, and possibly with a higher intensity.

Russia’s recent moves in Abkhazia had suggested that an incursion into the upper Kodori valley could be expected in mid-August. This remains a distinct possibility and may be accompanied by an incident in South Ossetia, ostensibly “in response” to Georgian “provocations” there, on the “evidence” of Russian state media. Moscow is now forcing Tbilisi to guess which option it is considering using: escalation in both areas, or a main action in one of them and a side show in the other.

Apart from the usual goal of military intimidation, Moscow has some novel motives this year to escalate tension to an unprecedented level. First and foremost, it wants to demonstrate that NATO would court danger and risk a breakdown in relations with Russia, if the Alliance approves a membership action plan for Georgia at one of the upcoming NATO meetings (December 2008, April 2009). Germany’s insistence at the April 2008 NATO summit, that the unresolved secessionist conflicts disqualify Georgia from a membership action plan, has emboldened Moscow to demonstrate ever more aggressively that the conflicts are indeed unresolved.

Second, by stoking tensions in South Ossetia and anxiety in European institutions, Moscow seeks to force Georgia to return to negotiations in the Joint Control Commission (JCC), which Georgia quit in March of this year. With its grotesquely unbalanced composition (Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia, and Russia’s North Ossetia, plus the OSCE as a passive observer), the JCC had only helped perpetuate the “frozen” conflict, i.e., Moscow-controlled instability.

Continue reading...

Aug 30, 2008

War is never the Answer

Dear Friends, Georgians have a request to all, who loves Georgia, loves Georgian people and herewith your own motherland With our patriarch's consecraste, who has a wish, on Monday, 1th of september, at 15:00 (*georgian time*) and *13:00 (London Time*) all must come out in street and make a live chain to make the world and at first Russia to see, that Georgia is united and we are together, georgians and all who loves georgia. 

Please make this request extend to everybody, with your friends, in place where you live and express your support to Georgia and to georgian people.

source: http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-70554

Psychopath Occupies Georgia, Blames America


GEORGIAN SECURITY ANALYSIS CENTER

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2008
#2008-006
CONTACT: Salome Salukvadze, +995 95 567 513

Psychopath Occupies Georgia, Blames America

"I think it is important that the legislative branch of the country
comment on the latest Russian outrage, and Georgia has done it with the
Parliamentary resolution. I think it is all together appropriate," said
David J. Smith, Director, Georgian Security Analysis Center.

The Parliament of Georgia Thursday unanimously passed the resolution on
occupation of Georgia. According to the resolution, Russian armed forces,
including so called peacekeepers, dislocated on the territory of Georgia,
are announced to be occupying forces; South Ossetia and Abkhazia announced
occupied territories; all armed units on the territory of Georgia except
of Georgian units are declared illegal. The resolution directs the
executive government to abolish all legal acts implying dislocation of
Russian armed forces on the territory of Georgia, delegitimized by the
actions of Russia itself. Georgia remains true to the cease-fire
agreement of August 12. The resolution charges the executive government
to cut diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation, while consular
relations will stay unchanged. According to the last point of the
resolution, the Public Prosecutor’s office is charged to investigate the
facts of ethnic cleansing executed in Georgia by the Russian Federation.

Smith went on to say, "I would point out that what we have here are two
breakaway regions seeking assistance from a hostile foreign power and
inviting a hostile foreign power onto Georgian territory. I am not a
lawyer so I will not comment on the precise legal aspects of that, but
when you look at it, it is a very, very bad situation and it is a
situation that the rest of the world needs to take into account.
Georgia's relations with its own citizens is its own internal affair, but
the notion of a foreign country marching around a sovereign country is a
business of the entire world. Moreover, not only Abkhazia and South
Ossetia are occupied by the Russian army, but today the large portions of
Georgia remain occupied by Russians."

"As for Putin, the problem that occurs right now is that talking sense to
people in Moscow does not make sense," said Smith. "Putin's interview
yesterday evening on CNN—Prime Minister Putin is in charge of Russia—It's
just bizarre."

Thursday Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States
of orchestrating the conflict. Putin said: “The suspicion arises that
someone in the US especially created this conflict with the aim of making
the situation more tense and creating a competitive advantage for one of
the candidates fighting for the post of US president."

David J. Smith continued: "What we have here is someone who has become a
television psychopath. The world will have to recognize that we are
dealing with a psychopath and international juvenile delinquent. Once
again I would say that it is a problem for Georgia, but it is a problem of
the rest of the world too."

Smith went on to say: "As for the United Nations so far being failing to
pass a resolution on Georgia, I thought Irakli Alasania made a very good
presentation at the UN yesterday. Of course you can use UN for public
diplomacy, spreading out the word, telling other countries what is going
on. But expecting any action from the UN is silly so long as the Soviet
Union maintains a veto on the UNSC."

The UN Security Council was incapable to pass a resolution over the
conflict in Georgia on Thursday afternoon after concluding its sixth
emergency session on the subject.

Aug 29, 2008

Georgia: Satellite Images Show Destruction, Ethnic Attacks

Russia Should Investigate, Prosecute Crimes

(New York, August 29, 2008) – Recent satellite images released by the UN program UNOSAT confirm the widespread torching of ethnic Georgian villages inside South Ossetia, Human Rights Watch said today. Detailed analysis of the damage depicted in five ethnic Georgian villages shows the destruction of these villages around the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, was caused by intentional burning and not armed combat. All of this adds up to compelling evidence of war crimes and grave human rights abuses. This should persuade the Russian government it needs to prosecute those responsible for these crimes. 
Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch
   
“Human Rights Watch researchers personally witnessed Ossetian militias looting and burning down ethnic Georgian villages during their research in the area,” said Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “These satellite images indicate just how widespread the torching of these villages has been in the last two weeks.”  
 
The new satellite images, taken by a commercial satellite on August 19, were analyzed by experts of the Geneva-based UNOSAT program, which is part of the UN Institute for Training and Research and produces satellite-derived mapping in support of UN agencies and the international humanitarian community. UNOSAT experts identified visible structures on the images that were likely to have been either destroyed or severely damaged. The expert analysis indicates clear patterns of destruction that are consistent with the evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch researchers working in the region.  
 

Among the images publicly available from the UNOSAT website (http://unosat.web.cern.ch/unosat/) is a map marking satellite-detected active fire locations in the ethnic Georgian villages around Tskhinvali. The map shows active fires in the ethnic Georgian villages on August 10, 12, 13, 17, 19 and 22, well after active hostilities ended in the area on August 10. On these dates the lack of cloud cover allowed the satellites to view those locations.

Fires by date (high resolution, 3.3MB)
 
Fires by date (low resolution, 1.6MB)
 
UNOSAT has also released a set of six high-resolution satellite images of the enclave of ethnic Georgian villages stretching nine kilometers north from Tskhinvali, showing that the majority of them have been destroyed.  
 
Destroyed ethnic Georgian villages (high resolution, 26.7MB)
 

Destroyed ethnic Georgian villages (low resolution, 8.5MB)

The images strongly indicate that the majority of the destruction in five of the villages – Tamarasheni, Kekhvi, Kvemo Achabeti (Nizhnie Achaveti in Russian), Zemo Achabeti (Verkhnie Achaveti in Russian), and Kurta – was caused by intentional burning. The high-resolution images of these villages show no impact craters from incoming shelling or rocket fire, or aerial bombardment. The exterior and interior masonry walls of most of the destroyed homes are still standing, but the wood-framed roofs are collapsed, indicating that the buildings were burned. Only along the main road through Tamarasheni are a number of homes visible with collapsed exterior walls, which may have been caused by tank fire. Ethnic Georgian witnesses from Tamarasheni told Human Rights Watch that they had witnessed Russian tanks systematically firing into the homes on August 10.

Detailed satellite images of destroyed ethnic Georgian villages (10.2MB)

On August 12, Human Rights Watch researchers witnessed massive looting by Ossetian militias in Tamarasheni, as well as in the neighboring ethnic Georgian villages. Human Rights Watch researchers saw and photographed the still-smoldering and the recently torched houses in Tamarasheni. Witnesses from local villagers in Tamarasheni, Kvemo Achabeti, and Kekhvi told Human Rights Watch that Ossetian militias were systematically looting and burning ethnic Georgian homes. In the village of Kekhvi, many homes had been set alight by Ossetian militias just before the arrival of Human Rights Watch researchers, who photographed the burning homes.
Human Rights Watch photo essay, "Burning and Looting of Ethnic Georgian Villages in South Ossetia"
Human Rights Watch researchers spoke with several members of the Ossetian militias who openly admitted that the houses were being burned by their associates, explaining that the objective was to ensure that ethnic Georgians would not have the houses to return to.  
 
“All of this adds up to compelling evidence of war crimes and grave human rights abuses,” said Denber. “This should persuade the Russian government it needs to prosecute those responsible for these crimes.”  
 
The damage shown in the ethnic Georgian villages is massive and concentrated. In Tamarasheni, UNOSAT’s experts counted a total of 177 buildings destroyed or severely damaged, accounting for almost all of the buildings in the town. In Kvemo Achabeti, there are 87 destroyed and 28 severely damaged buildings (115 total); in Zemo Achabeti, 56 destroyed and 21 severely damaged buildings (77 total); in Kurta, 123 destroyed and 21 severely damaged buildings (144 total); in Kekhvi, 109 destroyed and 44 severely damaged buildings (153 total); in Kemerti, 58 destroyed and 20 severely damaged buildings (78 total); and in Dzartsemi, 29 destroyed and 10 severely damaged buildings (39 total).  
 
Selected Accounts from Ethnic Georgian Residents  
 
“[The Ossetians] had cars outside and first looted everything they liked. Then they brought hay, put it in the house and ignited it. The house was burned in front of my eyes.”  
– Zhuzhuna Chulukhidze, 76, resident of Zemo Achabeti  
 
“I was beaten and my house was looted by Ossetian militias three times during a single day. After they took everything and there was nothing more to loot, they brought petrol, poured it everywhere in the rooms and outside the house, and then put it on fire. They made me watch as my house was fully burned.”  
– Ila Chulukhadze, 84, resident of Kvemo Achabeti  
 
“They [Ossetians] came several times to my house and took everything they liked. Once there was nothing else to take, they poured petrol and put it on fire. I watched how they burned my house as well as my neighbors’ houses.”  
– Rezo Babutsidze, 80, resident of Kvemo Achabeti  
 
“Ossetians first took out everything they could from my house. Then they brought hay, put it in the house and put it on fire. They did not allow us to take even our documents. I saw how my house was completely burnt.”  
– Tamar Khutsinashvili, 69, resident of Tamarasheni  

Georgia conflict: South Ossetia seeks to merge with Russia


Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia has signalled that it will formally seek to merge with Russia. 
 By David Blair, Diplomatic Editor


Mr Kokoity, holder of a Russian passport, is leader of the region's separatists, who use roubles, hold Russian passports and dream of rejoining Russia Photo: REUTERS

This move would amount to Russia’s annexation of an area of another state and the redrawing of the map of a corner of Europe. 

South Ossetia, with a largely Russian population of only 70,000, has no viable future as an independent state and observers believe that its only realistic option is to join its giant neighbour. 

President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia discussed this option with his South Ossetian counterpart, Eduard Kokoity, earlier this week during a meeting in Moscow. 

Znaur Gassiyev, the Speaker of South Ossetia’s parliament, said the enclave would formally join Russia "in several years" or possible earlier. This had been "firmly stated by both leaders” during their meeting in Moscow. 

Tarzan Kokoiti, the deputy Speaker, predicted: “We will live in one united Russian state.” 

While the Kremlin has recognised South Ossetia as an “independent” country, Russia effectively controls the tiny enclave, which has no viable economy and depends largely on smuggling. 

If the area merges with Russia, this would be a formal acknowledgement of reality. 

At the close of this month’s war with Georgia, Russian troops were in full control of South Ossetia and the other breakaway region, Abkhazia.

source

Aug 28, 2008

Fog of war obscures state of cultural heritage sites in Georgia

Tom Flynn*

The recent hostilities in Georgia have again focused attention on the impact of armed conflict on the region's ancient sites and monuments.

One of the oldest countries of the South Caucasus region, Georgia is particularly rich in cultural heritage, containing countless archaeological sites and medieval and later buildings of great historical significance. The country has three sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List and a further fifteen on the Tentative List for possible inclusion.

In 1991, following the fall of communism, Georgia became an independent nation. However, like many of its neighbours it has struggled with the transition from a relatively impoverished Soviet satellite state to a full-blown market economy.

The conflict of the early 1990s in the Russian-backed separatist republic of Abkhazia in north western Georgia brought widespread looting and damage to the region's cultural heritage. As a result, the website of ICOMOS, (the International Council on Monuments and Sites), has stated that "the entire cultural heritage of Georgia is endangered."

Maka Dvalishvili, director of the Georgian Arts and Cultural Centre (GACC) in Tbilisi, and Fulbright Scholar at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, told me it is too early to make an accurate assessment of the impact of the recent war on the region's cultural sites. "At the moment, there is no way to get to the key areas to assess the damage. It is not even safe for local residents. There is a real risk of unexploded mines and the armed forces say it will be two weeks before the territory is safe enough to enter."

A monitoring group from the Georgian Ministry of Culture in Tbilisi is standing by, ready to go in.

Nato Tsintsabadze, an architect and advisor on cultural heritage matters to ICOMOS and the Georgian Ministry of Culture, told me, "A plan is being prepared for monitoring and emergency response to war-damaged cultural heritage in the country which will take place after (and if) the European peace-keepers enter in the occupied territories. There are some efforts to gather information through interviewing displaced people from central Georgia."

Meanwhile, the draft of a preliminary report prepared by ICOMOS Georgia for Mr. Dinu Bumbaru, Secretary General of ICOMOS, states that, "On 7 August, ICOMOS Georgia professionals were at the village Ateni (near the town Gori) working on the 6th-century Ateni Sioni Church when shelling of the village had started. Fortunately, all the team had managed to leave the village together with other civilians without losses. Regretfully, there are casualties among our colleagues and their families working in the field of heritage preservation of Georgia."he monastery was also bombed. The Bishop had to take his congregation out of there. We passed several villages on foot. The Bishop contacted the priest Andria, who came for us with a minibus from Gori. Only the bishop Isaia and the priest Antoni [were] left behind, saying 'We cannot leave now' and they went back under fire and this disaster. They are there even today. We left. I could imagine anything, but shelling the Orthodox Church." (source: www.ireport.com)


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Beginning of the end for Putinism

Roger Boyes

Published 28 August 2008

Many Russians persist in viewing Putin as a superman. If truth be told he is a failure

Many people are afraid of Russia, and with good reason. Bloodthirsty Cossacks left scars across eastern Europe. So, too, did the Red Army. But British Russophobia has different roots, stretching back to the age of imperial competition. Now that we have waved goodbye to the colonies and Russia has grudgingly shed most of the Soviet imperium, there is no reason why we should fall back on some atavistic fear of the Kremlin when shaping policy. Caricaturing Russia as an angry, hungry bear does not help; nor does demonising Putin.

Instead, Russia's intervention in Georgia must make us focus on two questions. First, how strong is Russia and what are its intentions? Second, what are western aims in the Caucasus and eastern Europe? Once these matters are clarified, it will be possible to judge whether we are on a collision course with Moscow.

Georgia was plainly a Russian trap. A tank army was in position, and the Black Sea fleet mobilised, long before the fickle Mikhail Saakash vili started to bombard South Ossetia. Dig a hole in front of the Georgian leader and he can be relied upon to walk into it. So why did Russia crave military action? Because it believes that the mountainous borderlands of the Caucasus define Russian identity. Westernise or Nato-ise these countries and you trigger the Russian fear of encirclement. Also, the Black Sea has rich gas deposits, lucrative enough to turn Russia's southern borderlands into prosperous, independent-minded rivals. Georgia is also a transit land for an oil pipeline that poses an alternative to Russian networks. Destabilising Georgia and instal ling a Moscow-friendly government is therefore a Russian strategic aim.

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Current civilian, military and journalist casualty figures, including numbers of internally displaced persons

August 25, 2008

Explanatory Note
The information below is accurate to the best of our knowledge, but is subject to verification. They do not include data on South Ossetian and Russian casualties, which they government of Georgia has no way of assessing.
The numbers of dead and wounded are based exclusively on bodies received by Georgian morgues, and does not include those kept, buried, burned or otherwise disposed of within the area of Russian control.
About 160 military personnel remain unaccounted for.
The number of registered IDPs only includes those IDPs who fled to areas of Georgian control, and does not include those who fled to Russia or who are displaced within areas of Russian occupation.

Georgians wounded:
Total: 2231
Military: 1964
Civilian: 267
Discharged: 1069

Georgians killed:
Total: 216
Military: 143
Civilian: 73

Journalists:
Killed: 3 (1 international, 2 Georgians).
Injured: 6 (3 internationals, 3 Georgians).
Detained by Russians/Ossetes: 10 (8 internationals, 2 Georgians).
Attacked by Russians/Ossetes: 3 (2 internationals, 1 Georgian).
Robbed by Russians/Ossetes: 12 (all internationals).

Number of registered IDPs:
119, 000

Aug 27, 2008

Do not allow another Katyn take place! Ethnic cleansing evidence

also see (Katyn on youtube)



The following photographs were sent by the journalist (who I will not name due to his safety) who took the photo materials of the Concentration Camps (which they call detention camps) in Russian occupied Tskhinvali were so far hundreds of Georgian civilians are kept. He took these images with his cell phone camera and forwarded them to Human Rights Watch. There are striking similarities with Srebrenica tragedy. According to refugees and HR, men are taken away to forests after which point nobody knows of their whereabouts. Similar camps are set up in other towns in occupied "South Ossetia." Note, the musical concert is held by the Russian military near this camp. We are getting more images and evidences, which are submited to the War Crimes Trubunal in Hague which just recently accepted the case of ethnic-cleansing of Georgians and will start the hearing on September 3rd. Asked about his own earlier comments warning of a risk of ethnic cleansing by Russian forces in the territories, French Foreign Miniser Kouchner responded: "I hope that didn't happen overnight. But there has already been evidence that the armies are pushing away the Ossetians who favored Georgia, and in a certain way, yes, an ethnic cleansing is taking place."

The Truth About Russia in Georgia - Michael Totten



TBILISI, GEORGIA – Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia. “The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia,” the Associated Press reported over the weekend in typical fashion.


Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn't start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war. 

Regional expert, German native, and former European Commission official Patrick Worms was recently hired by the Georgian government as a media advisor, and he explained to me exactly what happened when I met him in downtown Tbilisi. You should always be careful with the version of events told by someone on government payroll even when the government is as friendly and democratic as Georgia's. I was lucky, though, that another regional expert, author and academic Thomas Goltz, was present during Worms' briefing to me and signed off on it as completely accurate aside from one tiny quibble.

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Aug 26, 2008

RUSSIAN INVASION OF GEORGIA - GOVERNMENT OF GEORGIA PRESS RELEASE

August 26, 2008

The documents below summarize the immediate results of Russian Invasion of Georgia. They are are represented in chapters as follows:

Read more:

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA - MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI

August 26, 2008

The Russian Federation’s actions are an attempt to militarily annex a sovereign nation—the nation of Georgia. This is in direct violation of international law and imperils the international security framework that has ensured peace, stability, and order for the past 60 years.

Russia's decision today confirms that its invasion of Georgia was part of a broader, premeditated plan to redraw the map of Europe. Russia today has violated all treaties and agreements that it has previously signed.

Russia’s actions have been condemned in the strongest possible terms by the entire international community, which has reaffirmed its support for Georgia’s territorial integrity. The Government of Georgia is grateful for the world’s support.

The regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognized by international law as being within the borders of Georgia.

Today, by its actions, the Russian Federation is seeking to validate the use of violence, direct military aggression, and ethnic cleansing to forcibly change the borders of a neighboring state.

Russia’s refusal to withdraw its military forces from Georgia—and its attempt to annex two regions of Georgia—is in direct violation of the EU-brokered cease fire to end Russia's invasion and occupation of Georgia.

The two regions in question have been de-populated by conflict and continue to be subject to widespread ethnic cleansing by Russia and its proxies—as confirmed by the United Nations and other international bodies.

These are areas where the local populations– simply because of their nationality - have been chased out, with the direct intervention of the Russian Federation.

The few civilians who remain in these regions have been given Russian passports en masse, in violation of international law and norms, making a mockery of the principle of “right to protect”.

One such expulsion took place in 1993 in Abkhazia. Others took place last week in South Ossetia and in Upper Abkhazia/the Kodori Gorge.

I remind you that before the first conflict, more than 525,000 people lived in Abkhazia. Today less than 150,000 do.

I remind you that ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia have been systematically forced to flee that territory due to Russia’s invasion.

The attacks on ethnic Georgians, both inside and outside the conflict zones, are continuing.

The ethnic cleansing is something that the local rebel separatists are proud to announce—and which Russia, through its actions, is attempting to legalize.

Is it legal to remove ethnic groups from their homes using violence and terror?

Is it moral or legal for an ethnically cleansed area to be rewarded with independence by a neighbor?

If intervention in Kosovo was about stopping ethnic cleansing, today’s decision by the Russian Federation is about rewarding and legalizing ethnic cleansing.

Russia has turned logic and morality on its head.

Russia’s decision is therefore a direct and grave challenge to the international order.This a challenge for the entire world. Not just Georgia.

It means that today, annexation and ethnic cleansing have once again become tools of international relations.

If accepted by the international community, it means that foreign-sponsored groups around the world can use violence and ethnic cleansing to achieve their ends.

It means that third parties can arm, sustain and direct those groups in order to change the borders on the world’s map.

Today, it is clear around the world that Russia is acting as an aggressor state.

My appeal to the free world is to condemn and reject Russia’s dangerous and irrational decision – NOT only for Georgia’s sake – but for the sake of preserving the fundamental basis of international law and order.

On behalf of my Government and people, I condemn this reckless act and want to state clearly that the Russian action does not hold any legal value.

As before – and according to international law, Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty is inviolable.

Russia’s aims, method and goals are now clear.

The Russian Federation has used military force to try to dismember my country.

In the days and weeks ahead we will work with the international community to prevent this decision from having any effect on the sovereignty of my country and from further undermining the international order.

Together we must stand united against this aggression and call on you for your assistance and immediate reaction.

This is a test for the entire world and a test for our collective solidarity.

This is the test that we—all free people—must not fail.

My friends, we are all concerned today. And today Georgia counts on your support.

Today a challenge has been posed to all of us.

Today the fate of Europe and the free world is unfortunately being played out in my small country.

But together, we can and we must unite to meet this challenge.

Abkhazians and OSetians Celebrate "independence" with Russian Flags

NO COMMENTS:

Oseti:














Abkhazeti:

Letter of a Georgian Citizen to Russian Citizens

Today your motherland has stolen a large part of mine - declaring the "independence" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. My congratulations to you on the successful enlargement of your "tiny" country once more and again in the way of its great historical tradition. Most of all I thank you for having remained so nobly silent. For my part I wish to inform you that my house, which you apparently considered as a shashlichnaia, will remain at your disposal. I do not particularly want to amend the great tradition of Russian-Georgian friendship, hoping that this friendship will allow me and my family to keep our small shashlichnaia-home, and that the Duma will not use the excuse of "independence" to annex it (in fact, my hundred per cent French wife speaks Russian as good or even better than the Ossetians, she can be offered a Russian passport and then see her interests defended even in the 18th Paris Montmartre arrondissement) and to install a new Museum of the Friendship among Peoples (Drujba Narodov).

Still your Paata KOURDADZE
 


A tous mes amis russes !

Aujourd'hui votre mère Patrie m'a volé une grande partie de la mienne - déclarant l'"indépendance" de l'Abkhazie et de l'Ossétie du Sud, je vous félicite donc d'avoir ainsi pu faire agrandir votre "minuscule" pays encore une fois et toujours à la manière de sa grande tradition historique. Et plus que tout je vous remercie de votre noble silence. Je vous informe pour ma part que ma maison, qui n'était apparemment pour vous qu'une shashlichnaia*, va rester à votre disposition. Je ne veux surtout pas modifier la grande tradition d'amitié russo-géorgienne, tout en espérant que cette amitié me permettra à moi et à ma famille de conserver notre petit appart-shashlichnaia, et que la Duma ne nous annexera pas sous couvert d'indépendance (c'est vrai ça, ma femme pourtant française de souche, à 100% même, parle russe aussi bien voire mieux que les Ossètes, on peut lui offrir un passeport russe puis vouloir venir défendre ses intérêts jusque dans notre 18e, (Paris Montmartre) et n'y installera pas un nouveau Musée de l'amitié entre les peuples (Drujba Narodov) 

Toujours votre Paata KOURDADZE 

*shashlichnaia = Bistrot de Grillades

Personal Stories of Georgian IDP-s on the Google Maps

 

View Larger Map

Aug 25, 2008

Съезд крыши - Валерия Новодворская

То, что нами правят преступники (чекисты – это вам не какая-нибудь каморра, это гораздо хуже, потому что они зомби, выбравшиеся из могилы СССР), – это не так страшно, как то, что нами правят лузеры и непрофессионалы. Война с Грузией – это не только преступление, это ошибка. Поведение Путина, Медведева и Ко я не могу себе объяснить ничем кроме фразы "Крыша едет не спеша, тихо шифером шурша". На вопрос "За что воюем?" на этот раз можно ответить: "Я хату покинул, пошел воевать, чтоб в Грузии землю чекистам отдать. Прощайте, родные, прощайте друзья! Лубянка, Лубянка, Лубянка моя!"

Михаила Саакашвили умело спровоцировали, втянули в конфликт, довели до удара по Цхинвали. А не сделай он этого, его зубастая оппозиция смела бы его, как когда-то Звиада Гамсахурдиа, мешавшего "Мхедриони" и другим отрядам разбойничать в Самачабло, то есть в Южной Осетии, и давшего Абхазии статус субъекта конфедерации. Парламент не согласился, а за поддержку Абхазии, после того как "умник" Шеварднадзе ввел туда войска, и Звиад, и его парламент, уже изгнанные грузинскими "патриотами", то есть милитаристами, в Чечню, были исключены Союзом граждан Грузии из состава грузинского народа (sic!). А среди нынешней оппозиции есть и такие, кто прямо предлагал объявить войну России, так что отдавать им власть значило бы только приблизить катастрофу и, возможно, ядерный Армагеддон.

Слишком долго российские "миротворцы" разжигали войну в Южной Осетии, чтобы она не началась, и слишком усердно российская авиация бомбила села Грузии уже вне Самачабло, чтобы несчастный грузинский президент не подставился. Публичная, ничем не прикрытая аннексия Самачабло Россией была бы уже достаточным безумием. Но Путину этого показалось мало. И тут же был отдан приказ абхазам, давно уже утратившим гордость и честь и ставшим российскими наймитами, занять Кодорское ущелье и заодно Панкиси.

Когда беженцы с экрана плачут: "Помогите Южной Осетии!" – им можно посочувствовать. Но когда из толпы несчастных осетин звучит крик: "Помогите Абхазии!" (а еще кому? Приднестровью?) – начинаешь думать о массовке. Значит, загребущие чекистские лапы хотели и Абхазию прихватить. И не только. Российские войска вошли в Грузию. Гори, Сенаки, бомбежки Поти и Тбилисского аэропорта (локатор уничтожен, и только старые грузинские пилоты рискуют взлетать и садиться). В порту Поти, арендованном на 95 лет арабским шейхом (нам еще судиться с ним на международном уровне), не было военных судов. Бомбили трубопровод, по которому нефть идет в обход России. Бандитские войска, бандитская страна. "Пацаны" в России всех построили и решили, что так будет везде.

Чуркин в ООН называет цель России: убрать Саакашвили. В последний раз мир слышал о таком от отцов-иезуитов в XVI веке. Уничтожение "нечестивых принцев". Религиозные фанатики убили Генриха III и Генриха IV. С тех пор убивали, но не вслух. Что же, Кремль решил написать свою Mein Kampf? Или они там все угорели? По Грузии шляются бесхозные колонны танков с казаками, "добровольцами" и прочей мародерской швалью. Что делают в Гори российские танки? Собирают оружие? А может, грибы или пустые бутылки?

Искусственно созданные российские граждане и война, развязанная якобы чтобы их защитить, – это обыкновенный фашизм. И если бы не Америка... Кажется, Джордж Буш наконец понял, какую змею Запад пригрел на груди, и решительно встал за Грузию и против России. Мощная рука США легла на чашу свободы и западных ценностей. Гуманитарка на кораблях ВМС и самолетах ВВС США – это попытка остановить войну. Пока земля еще вертится, пока не пришлось использовать ядерный потенциал. Джон Маккейн пишет статьи, как российский диссидент. Президенты Польши, Украины, Эстонии, Литвы и премьер-министр Латвии митингуют, взявшись за руки, как на Майдане в Киеве.

Нас не поддержал никто, кроме Кубы и патентованного тирана Лукашенко. Нас выкинули из G8 и из цивилизованного мира в выгребную яму изгойства. Да если бы Южная Осетия и Абхазия просто хотели отделиться, никто бы не стал защищать Саакашвили. Право народа превыше права государства. Но они же не ищут свободы, они ищут выгодного рабства; не наделали своих паспортов, а получили российские. Они просто коллаборационисты, а не инсургенты. Одна только Америка может спасти грузинский народ и российских призывников от взаимного истребления. Россию же, боюсь, уже никто не спасет. Мы будем прокляты и отвергнуты человечеством.

Валерия Новодворская

source: http://grani.ru/Politics/Russia/p.140299.html

RUSSIAN AGGRESSION IS STILL AGGRESSION – NO MATTER WHAT DUMA SAYS

GEORGIAN SECURITY ANALYSIS CENTER

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2008 #2008-004
CONTACT: Salome Salukvadze, +995 95 567 513

"The Kremlin uses the Duma and the Federation Council not as proper legislative bodies, but as propaganda machines. They often have been used to make a signal or a threat," said Ambassador David J. Smith, Director, Georgian Security Analysis Center. "We do not know what will happen—whether Putin will tell Medvedev to accept the resolution," Smith continued.

Today the upper house of Russian Parliament, the Federation Council, voted 130-0 to approve a resolution calling on President Dimitry Medvedev to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent. "But no matter what happens, we should take President Medvedev at his word when he said he is not interested in Georgia´s territorial integrity. This is not only blatant aggression toward Georgia, but also a total disregard of international norms—and the results of this aggression go far beyond Georgia.

“Sham recognition or no, nothing really changes as South Ossetia and Abkhazia are territories of Georgia and the entire world recognizes it. Russian forces occupy them both. And not only these territories are occupied, Russians have arrogated to themselves the right to sit on other pieces of Georgian territory that have nothing to do with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They have seized so-called buffer zones--Georgian territory outside the conflict zones--so that they can continue to threaten and terrorize from their so-called "checkpoints." Defying the signed cease-fire agreement and the international community, Russian troops are still fortified at illegally opened checkpoints in Poti and they continue destroying and looting the Georgian Coast Guard base. Russian occupiers ask the accreditation of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation to let the journalists work in Poti.

Smith went on to say, "The Port of Poti is not even contiguous with Abkhazia and this is just an occupation and continuing act of aggression. I hope the next American naval ship with the humanitarian aid will arrive at Poti. I hope the President of the United States of America will have the courage and wisdom to order the next ships put into Poti. The President has said that the ports should be open and thus what is now happening in Poti is not the business of Georgia only, but of the USA as well.

“Meanwhile the port of Poti has suffered unfathomable damage and the world has to step up and clear it out. The first step would be to ask the United States Coast Guard to do a port survey."

 

###


Aug 24, 2008

Georgian Civilians Tell of Miserable Conditions as War Captives

By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, August 24, 2008; Page A17


RUSTAVI, Georgia, Aug. 23 -- Georgian civilians captured and recently freed by Russian and South Ossetian forces on Saturday described beatings, forced labor and miserable living conditions in prison.

This Story

Georgian officials said that 79 Georgian civilians have been released over the past few days but that at least 75 civilians, almost all of them young men, remain in captivity in Tskhinvali, capital of the separatist territory of South Ossetia.

The former prisoners, half a dozen of whom were interviewed at a school serving as temporary housing in this industrial city, said they were seized from their homes or as they fled advancing Russian and South Ossetian forces. Some said they were held for as many as 12 days at a jail in Tskhinvali.

The detainees, many of them elderly fruit farmers from villages along Georgia's northern border, said male inmates were forced to clean streets and bury the war dead, and occasionally endured beatings that left them with bruises and welts. More than 100 men and women were packed into a cell with a single toilet, they said.

"I thought they would kill us. I was very much afraid," said Manuna Gogidze, 48... Read more.

Aug 23, 2008

22 August Info Digest

The information below is accurate to the best of our knowledge, but is subject to verification.

14:30 Russian troops start withdrawal from Igoeti and Kaspi 25kms from Tbilisi towards Gori. Gori remains under Russian control.

14:00 100 armored vehicles start movement from Senaki towards Zugdidi. Russian troops still remain in Senaki and Poti.

12:00 Deputy Chief of Staff of Russian Army Anatoly Nogovitsin says on press conference that Russia will keep 18 checkpoints on South Ossetian-Georgian “border” and in buffer zone. The same amount of Check points and 2142 soldiers will remain on Georgian-Abkhazian “border”.

10:00 No evidence of Russian troops withdrawal is observed by 10:00

02:30 Unknown explosive device exploded in Marneuli, installed under the railway bridge – no damage reported

Reportedly antitank missile or explosive exploded under the Imiri railway bridge, Marneuli district, 25 kms south from Tbilisi. The bridge was not damaged

Russian troops dig entrenchments in village Chuberi near Enguri Power Plant. Military presence of Russian troops reported at the dam infrastructure of power plant.

Aug 22, 2008

Russia Always Wanted a War with Georgia

August 22, 2008

Dodona Kiziria, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Indiana University


Mr. Gorbachev’s article “Russia Never Wanted a War” (see New York Times, August 20, op-ed section, page 23) can be accepted at face value by those who remember him as “darling Misha” and still credit him, quite erroneously, for bringing down the “evil empire.”

However, those who are familiar with the events which took place during the final years of the Soviet Union should remember (the Georgians certainly do!) that it was Mr. Gorbachev who sent tanks to crush the peaceful demonstration in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, on April 9, 1989. Georgia was demanding independence, and Mr. Gorbachev, then the head of the Soviet government, could not tolerate such heresy. 22 innocent people, most of them eighteen to twenty years old, were hacked to death by Russian soldiers. The name of the place was fittingly called “Lenin Square.” I do not remember Mr. Gorbachev bemoaning death of those innocent victims. Moreover, in 1991 he threatened President Gamsakhurdia that Georgia will have separatist movement in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He certainly kept his promise.

In the civil war that broke out in Georgian in1991 and lasted almost three years, Russia played active role supplying arms to warring sides favoring separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. After the end of the war Russia claimed the role of the peacekeeper in these regions but instead of facilitating a peaceful solution of the problem, she intentionally exacerbated ethnic tension keeping Georgia in a permanent state of instability.

In the 1990‘s, during the war in Chechnya where many innocent lives were destroyed and the city of Grozny burnt to ashes (did Mr. Gorbachev deplore the war with the same passion?), Russian government made another “friendly” gesture to its neighbor, a gesture aimed at crippling Georgia economically. Citizens of Georgia were barred from traveling to Russia without visa supposedly because Chechen fighters could penetrate to Russia from Georgia. Considering the opportunities open to the Chechens along the porous borders of the Caucasus, it was a very lame excuse indeed, especially since at that time no other member country of the CIS was burdened with visa requirements.

A few years ago the Russian government delivered another blow to Georgia’s economy; they blocked import of Georgian goods, suspended all flights and financial transactions with Georgian banks. At the same time, citizens of Georgia, living in Russia legally or illegally, were rounded up by the police and deported to Georgia in cargo planes. The operations were conducted in a manner that resulted at least in three deaths and caused great human misery.

Having strengthened its grip on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian government never stopped provoking Georgia or creating additional hot spots inside the country. Russian planes have repeatedly made brazen flights over Georgian territory, and just two months ago shot down a Georgian unarmed drone plane near South Ossetia’s boarder, a border that is legally part of Georgian territory. Had any of these actions been committed by the Government of Georgia, Russia would have started a war long time ago. Mr. Gorbachev have not mentioned innocent victims killed, villages razed to the ground, towns bombed, houses pillaged and bridges blown up deep inside Georgia, many kilometers away of the conflict zone.

This is not a war launched in defense of South Ossetians who, like many other ethnic minorities of the region, are derisively referred to by the Russians as “persons of Caucasian descent.” It is a war to punish Georgia for wanting to be free from the iron embrace of its “big brother.” It is a war Russia always wanted.


EDITORS NOTE: By the author's request copyrights restriction does not apply to this article.

Russland den Russen

von Florian Willershausen

Ihre Restaurants bleiben leer, tägliche Schikanen durch Behörden und immer häufiger offener Fremdenhass: Die Lage der über eine Million Georgier in Russland ist schon lange prekär. Nun macht der neue Kaukasus-Konflikt ihr Leben endgültig unerträglich - Leidensgeschichten aus Moskau.

MOSKAU. Das Trottoir vor der Botschaft Georgiens in Moskau ist fest in russischer Hand. Über dem gusseisernen Zaun wehen die weiß-blau-roten Flaggen der Kremlpartei "Einiges Russland". Berufsdemonstranten haben am Straßenrand ein Zelt aufgeschlagen. Ein klobiges Mischpult steht darunter, verkabelt mit einem Verstärker und zwei scheppernden Boxen. Rap-Musik übertönt das Dröhnen des Benzingenerators, der die Anlage am Laufen hält. Daneben stehen junge Männer mit spärlichem Bartwuchs und schlagen rauchend die Zeit tot. Junge Mädchen mit weißen Halstüchern lehnen sich gelangweilt an die Backsteinpfosten der Botschaft und spielen mit ihren Handys... read more

Aug 21, 2008

RUSSIA’S DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN OVER SOUTH OSSETIA

August 20, 2008

Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Analyst
August 20, 2008

By Robert M. Cutler

With Georgian government websites shut down by cyber-attacks in the days immediately preceding hostilities, the Russian story of its army coming to the defense of South Ossetia in the face of Georgian assault gained currency. This script is still often invoked as a preface to any commentary or reportage on current developments. However, as facts begin to surface, it is increasingly revealed as a propaganda strategy planned in advance and contradicted by evidence on the ground, by the testimony of neutral observers, and by the increasingly transparent cynicism of its purveyors.

BACKGROUND: From the very beginning of military clashes on the night of 7-8 August, there has been a concerted Russian effort to vilify President Mikheil Saakashvili as a war criminal. In the first days of the conflict, Russian media repeatedly cited a figure of 2,000 civilian casualties in Tskhinvali city and up to 40,000 refugees (out of a maximum 70,000 total population in South Ossetia of all ethnicities). It was on this basis that not only Russian media but also the highest Russian leaders repeatedly condemned Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as a war criminal guilty of ethnic cleansing, and promised prosecution in international courts. These claims have faded in recent days, because they have been shown to be false by systematic investigations by Human Rights Watch as well as by the aggregated testimony of foreign reporters who have entered the region since the Russian occupation. In a twist, Georgia has filed a brief before the International Court of Justice charging Russia with conducting and abetting ethnic cleansing of Georgians from South Ossetia and Abkhazia from 1990 to the present.

There is a general view that Georgia assaulted South Ossetia before Russian troops invaded. A detailed timeline provided by Georgia’s Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze during an international telephone press conference disputes that assertion, however. This view is corroborated in most part by several independent sources, and an independent Washington Post reconstruction of events concludes that the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali and the Russian tank column’s emergence from the Georgian end of the cross-border Roki Tunnel could only have been minutes apart at most. Roughly 150 Russian vehicles including armored personnel carriers got through before Georgian forces were able to mount an only partially successful attack on the crucial bridge at Kurta linking the Roki Tunnel with Tskhinvali.

It seems inescapable that Russian tanks must have been on the road from Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, for some time in order to cross the 100 miles of mountain roads to reach South Ossetia when they did. Novaya gazeta’s respected military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer is only one of several writers who have documented how the Russian invasion is only the culmination of a months-long series of provocations as well as strategic and tactical on-the-ground preparations, for example the construction and equipment of a base near the city of Java, northwest of Tskhinvali, as a refueling depot for Russian armor moving southwards. This should be added to the better-known “railroad repair” troops sent to Abkhazia in recent weeks, who are reliably reported to have constructed tank-launching facilities. The ceremony completing the railway repair was held as late as July 30.

IMPLICATIONS: Reports of fighting on 8 August, for which Russian media were the chief origin, asserted that Georgian forces entered Tskhinvali city early in the day, were then driven back by Russian troops who were said to retake the city, and finally returned to seize parts of the city’s southern outskirts before being repelled for good. However, according to subsequent reports by civilians in Tskhinvali, the Russians never occupied the city; rather, it was combined artillery and aerial bombing that drove the Georgians out of the city. According to Georgian sources, this bombardment was extremely intense and lasted for all the time Georgian forces were in Tskhinvali from dawn on 8 August until just before noon, and continued even afterwards, intensifying again when Georgian forces attempted to re-enter the city later in the day.

Among the weapons systems used by the Russian forces were Uragan and Grad artillery. The latter is the same system that Georgian military affirmed using against Russian military posts outlying Tskhinvali late on the night of 7 August, after Russian armor entered Georgia through the Roki Tunnel. Both sides as well as local observers agree that there was massive aerial bombardment during the day of the eighth. Moreover, American military training provided to the Georgian army over the last few years appears to have concentrated on counterinsurgency tactics, in view of Tbilisi’s contribution of troops to the Iraq conflict.

Given Russian air superiority in the region, it is difficult to suppose that the heavy aerial bombardment of Tskhinvali city came from the Georgian side. Russian sources blame the destruction exclusively on the Georgian artillery assault on the night of 7-8 August, but surviving city dwellers seem to indicate that the Georgian assault was concentrated on the administrative quarters of the Russian-backed South Ossetian separatists, as well as communications links and the like. By contrast, if observers’ reports are to be believed, the degree of devastation visited upon the city by nightfall on 8 August (after Russian bombardment had driven the Georgians from the city) is paralleled in recent history only by the leveling of Grozny in the Second Chechen War of the 1990s.

The Russian side’s signature of consecutive ceasefire agreements without any visible attempt to implement them may also be charitably described as disinformation. This pattern of behavior was first clearly revealed several days ago when, after the Russian and Georgian presidents had both signed French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s six-point ceasefire document, the Russian military began to withdraw from Gori and then, as soon as international media began to report this, literally reversed gear and moved back. As Western video journalists reported live, Russian troops then continued to attack nonmilitary establishments (the nearest military target is a base eight miles outside Gori) while appearing to coordinate with Ossetian and other North Caucasus irregulars who looted property and even abducted civilians.

CONCLUSIONS: What is remarkable about the Russian information policy on the war against Georgia is its failure to adapt to the twenty-first century information environment. Even Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitalii Churkin has lost the charisma that he radiated twenty years ago when, during the heyday of glasnost and perestroika, he became the first Soviet ambassador to Washington to testify to a Congressional committee. Russia’s political leaders hold no spontaneous interviews even with representatives of Russian media. By contrast, Saakashvili’s presence on CNN and other western stations, and his and the Georgian leadership’s command of foreign languages, have enabled them to get their message across effectively.

Late on the night of 18 August, Tbilisi time, the Georgian Ministry of Defense posted a statement (hosted on blogspot.com because of continuing infrastructure and cyberattacks against official Tbilisi websites), saying simply: “It is absolutely obvious to the international community that the Russian Federation chose destruction of economy with the use of military force and ethnic cleansing as an instrument for implementing its foreign policy.” The credibility of the Georgian message is enhanced not only by reports from foreign journalists on the ground but also by an entirely new element in the information environment: the aggregate of amateur eyewitness reports on youtube.com, ireport.com, and other vlog (video-logging) dedicated websites.

AUTHOR’S BIO: Robert M. Cutler is Senior Research Fellow, Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, Carleton University, Canada.