Day: October 4, 2006

Ramzan Kadyrov Turns 30

Via Prague Watchdog (October 4, my tr.):

Ramzan Kadyrov’s birthday to be celebrated in Chechnya under tightened security

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA – On October 5 the 30th birthday of Chechen Premier Ramzan Kadyrov will be celebrated. Various mass events and a festive concert, which will be held in Gudermes, the republic’s second largest city, are planned for the occasion.

An officer in the Chechen law enforcement agencies says that the Chechen Interior Ministry police have been placed on high alert in preparation for the day. According to him there is a high probability that guerrillas may attempt to carry out a number of attacks during the events.

“The plans for October 5 include the opening of Grozny’s ‘Severnyy’ airport, the inauguration of the House of the Press, the holding of a large concert in the city of Gudermes and other special events in honour of Ramzan Kadyrov’s 30th birthday. It’s highly probable that the leaders of bandit formations will try to carry out some attacks and acts of terrorism and sabotage in order to destabilize the situation,” he says.

“So the police have been placed on high alert. Additional security is being provided at locations of strategic importance. Tomorrow there will be restrictions on the movement of motor traffic in Grozny, and other measures aimed at protecting the safety of the public have also been taken,” the police officer said.

According to the Chechen constitution adopted in 2003 during the presidency of Ramzan’s father, Akhmat Kadyrov (who was killed in an explosion at Grozny’s Dinamo Stadium on May 9 2004), on reaching the age of 30 a citizen of the republic becomes eligible to be chosen president of Chechnya.

Today there are few in Chechnya who doubt that sooner or later Ramzan Kadyrov will assume the republic’s presidency – if not in the immediate, then in the foreseeable future. But for the time being it is his 30th birthday that is about to be celebrated on a lavish scale.

Translated by David McDuff.

Forcing It

In EDM, defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer considers that Moscow is so desperate for regime change in Tbilisi that it will resort to almost any measures in order to achieve this:

After 9/11 Putin declared himself an ally of the United States and the West in the “War on Terror.” In return, the Kremlin had expected that the post-Soviet space encompassing the Commonwealth of Independent States would be recognized as its undisputed sphere of influence, where Russia could do anything it wishes without any “third party” interfering. The West has never formally or informally recognized such a “sphere” and the Kremlin, together with the Russian military/security/foreign policy elite, has interpreted this as a clear sign of ill intent.

The mirage of a new Russian-led union to replace the old Soviet one has obsessed the Kremlin since the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The ruling elite in Moscow today is split between those who want to recreate the Soviet Union per se and “reformers” who want a new, remodeled Soviet Union (or “Imperial Russia”) with a thriving market economy and a newly armed, professional military imposing itself on its neighbors. As Putin told the country in August 2000, after the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine, “We will overcome it all and restore it all, the military and the navy and the state” (RTR TV, AP, August 24, 2000).

Today the Kremlin seems to feel itself strong enough, thanks to billions of petro-dollars, to enforce its sovereignty on former Soviet republics. Georgia, a small, impoverished country, riddled with separatist problems, may seem to be a good showcase to install a pro-Moscow regime and at the same time kick out the United States, the West, and NATO.

Moscow’s blockade of Georgia will continue and may get worse. Russian officials have threatened to begin mass repatriation of Georgians living in Russia. Hopes have been expressed that the thousands of refugees ethnically cleansed from Russia will, when arriving in Tbilisi, be “more well-disposed toward Moscow” and will overthrow Saakashvili (Strana.ru, October 3).

If the noose of sanctions and pressure fails to achieve regime change, direct military action is possible. The first sortie could be by proxy, using armed separatists supported by “North Caucasian volunteers.” If the proxy forces fail, the regular Russian military could become involved.

Russian Intelligence Helped Hizballah – II

More, this time from MosNews, on the Haaretz and Jane’s Defence Weekly reports on Russo-Syrian aid to Hizballah during the recent Israel-Lebanon conflict:

Syria’s centrality to the collection and transfer of intelligence to Hezbollah is based on separate agreements Damascus signed with Moscow and Tehran on intelligence cooperation.

The agreement with Russia is much older than the one with Iran, which was signed earlier this year.

As happened with the significant numbers of advanced Russian anti-tank missiles procured by Syria and transferred to Hezbollah, Russia found itself operating indirectly in favor of the Lebanese Shi’ite organization in matters of intelligence.

In addition to the profits from arms sales to Syria, the Russo-Syrian intelligence cooperation benefits Moscow in terms of the actual first-hand data collected by the listening posts.

Russia is also involved in assisting Syria to enlarge two of its ports on the Mediterranean, Latakia and Tartus. Reports of this development have emerged only recently.

See also: Russia May Relocate Warships to Syria

Russia and Syria

Russian Intelligence Helped Hizballah

Georgian Opposition Protests Outside Russian Embassy

From Civil Georgia:

Activists and leaders from the opposition political parties Republicans, Conservatives and Industrialists, joined by some of the local civil society groups held a protest rally outside the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi on October 4.

Protesters said that the rally was a demonstration of “the Georgian society’s unity” against the background of Russia’s mounting pressure on Georgia.

Georgia/Russia: Updates

From RFE/RL:

Russia Puts Pressure On Georgia In UN

October 4, 2006 — Russia’s UN ambassador has submitted a draft resolution to the Security Council linking the future of a UN observer mission in Georgia with demands that Tbilisi stop “provocative actions” over the breakaway Abkhazia region.

The UN has had observers in Georgia since 1993 monitoring a cease-fire between Georgia and Abkhazia.

The mission’s mandate expires on October 15.

The move comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi, triggered when Georgia arrested four Russian officers last week and accused them of spying.

Georgia released the four on October 3, but Russia has severed all travel links with Georgia in retaliation.

(AFP, AP)

Russia Carrying Out Sweeping Checks On Georgians

October 4, 2006 — Russian authorities are carrying out sweeping checks on Georgian-linked businesses and Georgians living in Russia, according to local media.

The checks came as Russia severed all transport and postal links with Georgia amid a spying row.

On October 2, Georgia handed back four Russian soldiers accused of spying, but Russia is nevertheless proceeding with the sanctions.

MORE: Coverage in Georgian from RFE/RL’s Georgian Service and in Russian from RFE/RL’s Russian Service.
Andrei Kokoshin, the head of the Duma’s CIS Relations Committee, said the lower house of parliament today will pass a statement denouncing the Georgian government’s “anti-Russian” policies.

“[The statement] expresses concern over [Georgia’s] policy of violating human rights and basic democratic freedoms and, of course, the provocative actions against Russian peacekeepers and military personnel,” Kokoshin said.

The Russian parliament is also expected to pass a bill that could ban Georgians working in Russia from wiring money home.

Russia says hundreds of millions of dollars are transferred from Russia to Georgia each year.

(compiled from agency reports)

Russia Warns Georgia Against Blackmail

October 4, 2006 — President Vladimir Putin said today no country, specifically Georgia, should be allowed to use the “language of provocations and blackmail” against Russia.

Putin discussed with lawmakers the arrest last week of four Russian soldiers on spying charges.

The lower house of parliament is expected later today to pass a tough-worded statement denouncing the Georgian government’s policies.

Despite the soldiers’ release on October 2, Russia severed all transport and postal links with Georgia.

Police, meanwhile began sweeping checks on Georgian-linked businesses and Georgians living in Russia.

Authorities closed a Georgian-owned casino in Moscow and raided several other businesses, and said they uncovered a large number of fake visas for Georgian immigrants.

Also, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said today the Russian Navy will continue a training exercise in the Black Sea, ignoring complaints from Georgia.

Ivanov, on a visit to Kyrgyzstan, said Russia would not change its plans “every time [President Mikheil] Saakashvili’s regime sneezes.”

Georgia has called the Russian exercises a threat to security and a breach of the United Nations charter.

(compiled from agency reports)

Russia and the Future of Democracy

Observing the development of the crisis in relations between Moscow and Tbilisi, it’s possible to come to the conclusion that this was a crisis deliberately sparked by the Russian government for two main reasons: in order to create a diversion from the negative global publicity it has received in connection with its energy policy and the Sakhalin 2 project, and in order to demonstrate the new “independent” foreign policy recently outlined by foreign minister Lavrov – a policy principally aimed at challenging U.S. and Western interests around the world.

It has been instructive to watch the cynicism with which Russian government spokesmen and policymakers have formulated and packaged the Georgia crisis, in their attempts to present it as a kind of “mirror-image” of the Israel-Lebanon conflict, complete with captured soldiers, closing of borders, accusations of state terrorism, statements at the United Nations, and more – here is also a dash of mockery of the U.S. position on Iran, with “sanctions” wrapped up in self-righteous rhetoric, to make these crude collective punishments look respectable. Gleb Pavlovsky, the Kremlin’s chief adviser on matters of state propaganda, made it clear that Moscow was not going to expose itself to the kind of criticism experienced by Israel for its use of force against Hizballah in Lebanon, remarking that “Moscow will not go into the Caucasus…like a mousetrap.” The cynicism in the comparison, as in the accusations of “Stalinism”, “banditry” and “state terrorism” levelled at the Georgian government by Putin, lies of course in the fact that in this situation, as usual, Moscow is the aggressor, and also the purveyor of state terror.

In fact, the Israel-Lebanon analogy Russia so keenly seeks to establish may, if inverted from its original form, be useful as an aid to understanding exactly where Moscow has set its sights for the latter half of the first decade of the 21st century, and beyond. As Paul Goble recently pointed out, Russia is at a turning-point, and with the Georgian crisis the point may already have been turned: Moscow is aligning itself once again with the world’s despots and aggressors, forming alliances with forces that seek to destabilize the world economy and global security: Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, China, and even North Korea. This path of realignment really began quite a long time ago, with the supposed ending of the Cold War and the deliberate decision by the Soviet elites to dissolve the Soviet Union. That decision, with its release of forces that had previously been contained by the mechanisms of Soviet power and influence, in particular the forces of radical Islam, led directly to September 11.

It’s in the continuation of this new form of the anti-Western, anti-U.S. axis once represented by the Soviet Union that Russia seeks its future goals and orientation. It might be as well for the West to realize this before too long. And indeed, Vice President Cheney’s remarks at the 2006 Vilnius Conference, with their invocation of the spirit of the Baltic States, of Sakharov, Mindszenty, Walesa, Havel and other resisters of Soviet oppression, presented Russia with a choice between a reversion to the ways and thinking of the past, or an alignment with the West in its struggle to bring democracy to the rest of the world – and in particular, to Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, It seems that Russia has made its choice – and it has chosen the path of the tyrants, those who, in Cheney’s words “may, for a time, deny the hopes of others, violate the rights of others, and even take the lives of others.” Yet, Cheney went on, “they have no power to inspire hope or to raise the sights of a nation.” Sadly, it is that path of authoritarian nihilism that Russia has chosen, led by people who have betrayed and sold out what was great in that nation’s contribution to the world’s culture.