Tag Archives: South Ossetia

Breakaway Regions Claim A “Kosovo.”

The Georgia breakaway region of Abkhazia is seeking recognition from the European Union for its decision to end relations with Georgia and become an independent state. Deputy Foreign Minister Maxim Gunjia emphasized: “we want the European Union to recognize our independence. This is a very positive moment for the EU.” In a sense, South Ossetia and Abhhazia have placed the European Union and the United States in a rather awkward situation since those bodies strongly supported the right of Kosovo to break away from Serbia and declare its independence. Gunjia pointed out to the European Union in no uncertain terms, “we use the same arguments as those used by the West with regard to Kosovo. There was no possible way to reconcile with Georgia. this is purely a continuation of the Kosovo precedent.”

Russia most probably would like to create disunion within the EU over this issue. For example, Slovakia was hesitant about recognizing Kosovo as independent and there may be nations within the EU which are torn between anger at Russian behavior and the right of people to be independent. Ironically, China has expressed displeasure at the prospect of the two regions becoming independent because of fears similar demands would be made by ethnic groups within China.

President George Bush has never been the swiftest thinking person in the world and most probably never recognized that by supporting Georgia he opened the door to the two regions declaring independence.

The Day After In Georgia And South Ossetia

Matt Siegel, reporting for the New Statesman, found exhausted doctors working in the South Ossetia General Hospital in Tskhnvali. A week ago there were wounded civilians and bloody surgical gloves lying in heaps in corridors of the hospital. Dr. Tinati Zakhorova, angrily commented: “This is the fourth genocide against the Ossetian people by the Georgians. How can we go back to living under them?” The real mystery about events in South Ossetian and Georgia is who was involved in planning the initial attack and to what extent is their culpability on the part of President Bush in events that occurred in these sad lands? Siegel met many South Ossetians who believe fervently they need the support of Russia in order to survive against the Georgians. They believe without Russian soldiers their country would have disappeared.

Siegel found evidence of Georgian artillery attacks on the capital. On the other hand when Siegel visited the Georgian city of Gori the exact opposite view was expressed. People wanted Americans, not Russians. Sasha Berdizee, expressed the view of many when he admitted “Misha made a mistake” in referring to President Saakashvili. There is realization Georgia is a tiny country bordering on a powerful Russia which will not tolerate a hostile regime so close to its land.

Life Returning To Normal In Georgia

Peter Murphy, writing for the Budapest Sun, reports life in Georgia is slowly returning to normal as people return to their regular activities and jobs. He talked with a group of people of whom only two were Georgian and the others Ossetian, Armenian and Russian. A Georgian woman commented: “The war doesn’t affect us; we were friends before and we will be friends after. Politicians have made this war, not the people. However, he came across Russians who fear remaining due to bitter feelings generated by the conflict. “There have been some who make sure we can hear them when they talk of the bad Russians. If someone on the street asks us where we are from, we say we are Armenians. We think about leaving, we’d go to Moscow. More and more Russians have left in the lat few years.”

Murphy saw many anti-Russian banners hanging from barriers and TV stations report constantly about evil Russians. However, panic buying has ended and people are returning to their normal activities. “Business for anyone is not brisk these days, the hotels are empty” since tourists are not making trips to Georgia.

The war led thousands of Russians who had been peacefully living in South Ossetia to flee in fear and now they are creating an new refugee problem for the Georgian government. Murphy visited the main hospital in Tbilsi and was told by doctors most casualties were soldiers who had been wounded by cluster bombs and only a few had bullet wounds. He did not come across evidence of widespread death as has often been reported in the western media. Actually, he noted, “the road north to Gori and South Ossetia from the capital is surprisingly busy with traffic as people in outlying suburbs of Tbilsi come and go.” It is apparent there are South Ossetians who fled to Russia and those who fled to Georgia. Now, refugees wait and see what the future holds.

No Evidence Of “Genocide” In South Ossetia

The Russian government justified its intervention in South Ossetia on grounds Georgian military forces had committed “genocide” in that region. President Medvedev has asked the Prosecutor general office to open an investigation that could lead to genocide charges being filed against Georgian leaders, but so far no evidence has been uncovered to justify the claim. South Ossetia’s top police official, Mikhair Mandzayev told reporters on Saturday about 2,100 people were killed and Russian officials have thrown around figures anywhere from 1,600 to 2,100. A fact finding mission for Human Rights Watch has so far only been able to find about 60 bodies. The head of its Moscow bureau, Anna Neistat said the group had only been able to find 44 bodies in the Tskhinvali hospital. “The numbers we are getting is dozens of civilians rather than thousands.” She reported hospital officials said they had treated about 273 civilians for injuries.

However, Alexander Brod of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights who visited South Ossetia on Friday as part of a team with the Public Chamber says a higher figure of 1,600 is likely. “I saw there that a lot of people klled during the first two days of fighting were buried on the spot, right in their own yards because the intense fire did not allow other options.”

The death of a single person in the fighting is a tragedy, but to employ expressions such as “genocide” is misleading and inappropriate. There was no systematic killing of people, those who died undoubtedly were caught in the firing between opposing forces.

Secretary Rice In Georgia As Sign Of Support

Secretary of State Condi Rice is in Georgia where she is dealing with the complex issues raised by events in that region of the world. On one hand, the United States is working to get Russia out of Georgia and restore conditions to what they were before fighting broke out in the area, but, on the other hand, Rice must deal with actions of the government of Georgia which created the present situation. The United States is assuring Georgia it will not be forced to accept any decisions which run counter to its self interests. However, there is a difference between what Georgia views what should be done in the region and what most Western nations are willing to accept.

President Saakashvili thundered to the world that “Russia’s invasion of Georgia strikes at the heart of western values” and to allow it sends a message that authoritarian government can exist anywhere. However, he initiated the war because of a desire to impose Georgia’s will upon South Ossetia. The West supports Kosovo’s decision to breakaway from Serbia which places it in a dilemma. Does South Ossetia have the right to breakaway from Georgia if that is the will of its people?

Are Russian Soldiers In Gori, Georgia?

A Moscow Times reporter saw about 50 trucks with Russian solders moving toward Gori from the east while an advisor to President Saakashvili, said the Russian military was using Gori as a staging area for looting raids on neighboring villages. The Moscow Times reports a convoy of journalists and diplomats heading for Gori from Tibilisi were halted about two kilometers from Gori and prevented from proceeding any further. Finally, a group of diplomats were allowed to enter Gori but the reporters were detained at the check point. It is still unclear exactly how many Russian troops are in Gori or whether they also have tanks in the city.

President Medvedev has declared a national day of mourning for Russian and South Ossetians who died during the last few days of fighting. Russia’s military says 74 of its troops died in the fighting and about 171 were wounded. There is still controversy as to the number of South Ossetians and Georgians who died as a result of the war.

The reality is the status quo of what was present prior to the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia will be maintained. President Sarkozy believes the cease fire will hold and most probably the two breakaway provinces will maintain their independence. President Saakashvil destroyed any real possibility for dealing with problems arising from the areas breaking away by his ill advised invasion of South Ossetia.

President Bush Stands For Peace And Opposes War!

President George Bush made clear to Russia that he opposes use of armed force to settle disputes between nations. He informed the Russian government aid would be sent to Georgia and it would be delivered by American troops who would be flying into Georgia. Secretary of State Rice bluntly told the Russians: “This is not 1968 an the invasion of Czechoslovakia where Russia can threaten a neighbor, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed.” The European Union was prepared to dispatch soldiers as part of a peacekeeping group that would assist in maintaining the cease fire agreement that President Sarkozy hammered out between Georgia and Russia.

Under terms of the cease fire, both sides would withdraw to their bases and allow humanitarian aid. It is still unclear about the presence of Russian “peacekeeping troops” in the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The presence of George Bush as an opponent of the use of force to resolve problems is among the most laughable aspects of the current crisis. Actually, Russia acted in the same manner as did President Bush in 2003 when he ignored UN attempts to verify if WMD actually existed in Iraq. One can only wonder if the American president looks in the mirror of South Ossetia and sees his own reflection.

Is Russia Exaggerating Deaths In South Ossetia?

There are indications Russia is deliberately exaggerating the number of people killed in South Ossetia in order to present an image of great need for Russian intervention. Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch says her group has been investigating the deaths in South Ossetia and has concluded there is no evidence the Russian figure of 2,000 dead is accurate. “Our findings so far do not in any way confirm the Russian statistics. On the contrary, they suggest the numbers are exaggerated.” Her investigation has found evidence of Ossetian fighters burning and looting Georgian villages north of the South Ossetian capital.

Doctors at Tskhinvali hospital said they had treated 273 wounded people and there were a total of 44 dead people. It is quite clear a Russian propaganda campaign is being waged to convince the Russian people there was need for intervention in order to save lives.

What Was Saakashvili Thinking?

Turkish writer, Ismet Berkan, writing in Radikal, expresses the views of many people by noting, “I wonder what Georgian president Mikhael Saakashvili was thinking on Thursday evening when he ordered his army to topple the separatist government in South Ossetia and to become the ruler of the country. What I heard is that Saakashvili doesn’t recall that he gave the first order. And he denies everything, as all other people who are deeply disappointed for the same reason. Russia planned it to coincide with the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games. But, he is the one deciding the timing. If the Georgian troops had not entered South Ossetia, there couldn’t have been any excuses for the bombardments on Gori and Tbilski, let alone Ossetia by the Russian soldiers.” The Turkish writer blames Saakashvili for a sad and stupid gamble that only resulted in terrible losses for his nation.

Berkan argues “Russia has aspired to become an imperial power again… since Prime Minister Vladmir Putin too charge of the country. In fact, he wants to rule half the world, directly or indirectly.” Above all, Russia is concerned they control what happens in the Caucasus area.

It increasingly is becoming apparent, President Saakashvili and his mentor, George Bush made a terrible mistake in the invasion of South Ossetia.

War Of Words Continues In Georgia

The fragile peace that now reigns in Georgia raises hopes the shooting phase of the war between Russia and Georgia may finally have ended after six days of intensive fighting. President Medvedev of Russia proclaimed: “the aim of the operation has been achieved. The aggressor has been punished and has suffered considerable losses.” He termed President Saakashvili to be a “lunatic” and continued the tough talking begun by Prime MInister Putin during the conflict by adding, the difference between lunatics and other people is that when they smell blood it is very difficult to stop them. So, you have to use surgery.” Although the Russian leader claimed fighting had halted, the president of Georgia was saying, “As I speak now, Russian tanks are attacking Gori.” However, a witness in Gori told Reuters news agency he saw no Russian tanks in Gori.

The entire episode of fighting and killing can be blamed on failure of both sides to place their confidence in diplomatic strategies of resolving conflict. President Saakashvili initiated fighting on the assumption, his nation could simply enter South Ossetia and never encounter Russian forces. In a sense, his confusion and mistakes are similar to those of his good friend, George Bush who entered Iraq with an assumption it would be a quick victory. In both cases myopic thinking resulted in the death of thousands.

Russia has shown the West it once again has a strong military force that is capable of action. Perhaps, the time has come to end provocative acts such as building missile bases on the border of Russia.