Month: April 2008

International Support for Georgia

Civil Georgia has published a series of statements from international figures and organizations on the present crisis (the full text of each statement may be read by going to the Civil Georgia site):

EU statement:
“The EU is seriously concerned about recent developments in the Georgian conflict areas, particularly regarding the latest decision of the Russian Federation… to establish official ties with institutions of the de facto authorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia without the consent of the Government of Georgia. The EU calls on the Russian Federation not to implement its decision.” Full Text

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General:
“I am deeply concerned by the actions Russia has taken to establish legal links with the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia… The Russian steps undermine that [Georgia’s] sovereignty. I urge the Russian Federation to reverse these measures, and call on the Georgian authorities to continue to show restraint.” Full Text

Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State:
We are very concerned about the [Russian] presidential decree that was issued… The United States is absolutely committed to the territorial integrity of Georgia. We believe that there should be an effort to carry out the plans that the Georgians have talked about to try and deal with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Obviously, the people of those regions need to have a good life and Georgia needs to provide for them. But we are very concerned at the steps that have been taken and we have made our views known to the Russian Government. Full Text

The U.S. Department of State statement:
“This step challenges Georgia’s territorial integrity and would not be in keeping with Russia’s status as a “facilitator” of the peace process.” Full Text

Julie Finley, U.S. ambassador to the OSCE:
“This move, coupled with Russia’s recent lifting of CIS sanctions that opens the possibility for military assistance to Abkhazia, has significantly increased tensions in an already volatile region… Russia is supposed to be facilitating a peace process in Georgia but is instead openly siding with the separatists, calling into question Russia’s facilitator role. We urge Russia to respect Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to repeal the April 16th instructions, to play a constructive role in accordance with its commitment to act as a facilitator to the peace process, and to work with Georgia to encourage the Abkhaz and South Ossetian leaders to engage on Georgia’s new proposals for a peaceful settlement of the conflicts as a basis for finding a way forward.” Full Text

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the Estonian President:
“One possible interpretation is that the refusal, the opposition to giving MAP by some [NATO] members, some allies, was perceived [in Moscow] as a green light to proceed with this rather dangerous step… The Russian decree we think is provocative, counterproductive and ultimately wrong… We think that this kind of decree should be withdrawn or revoked.” Full Text

Valdas Adamkus, President of Lithuania:
“Such actions destabilise situation and threaten security and stability in the whole region. I urge Russia to respect Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and to continue dialogue with Georgia’s government in Tbilisi… I encourage EU governing bodies and EU Member States to have and state their clear position regarding Russia’s actions.” Full Text

Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister of Sweden:
“News that Moscow will be taking a number of measures to establish closer ties with the Georgian areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is deeply disquieting… If measures are now taken that create the impression that this [Georgia’s] territorial integrity is in fact being violated – and with the aim of actually integrating these areas with Russia – it may have serious consequences. A political conflict in the immediate neighbourhood of the future winter Olympics is not in anyone’s interest – least of all Russia’s.” Full Text

Alexander Stubb, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Finnish Foreign Minister:
“I urge all parties involved to refrain from any unilateral actions which could further destabilize the already tense situation. I call on the parties to look for ways to build confidence and engage in efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflicts.” Full Text

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana’s spokeswoman, Christina Gallach:
“We are concerned about these unilateral decisions, we have always supported Georgia’s territorial integrity.. We have always believed that this type of conflict must be resolved through dialogue.” Full Text

Sir Brian Fall, the UK Special Representative for the South Caucasus:
“The proposed package of Russian unilateral measures relating to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia, would only increase tensions in the region.” Full Text

Statement by the Bureau of the South Caucasus Delegation of the European Parliament:
“These steps undermine the principle of territorial integrity of Georgia, as stipulated by all relevant UN resolutions and question Russia’s role of the impartial moderator in the peace process. We are convinced that such steps will only increase tensions in the region and we hope that Georgia remains stable despite any provocation, as well as the UN becomes aware of negative consequences of Russian military presence there.” Full Text

Cyber Attack

RFE/RL, on the mass cyber attack which peaked on Monday, hitting its broadcast services and making them inaccessible to the outside world:

The attack, which started on April 26, intially targeted the website of RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, but quickly spread to other sites. Within hours, eight RFE/RL websites (Belarus, Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Tatar-Bashkir, Radio Farda, South Slavic, Russian, and Tajik) were knocked out or otherwise affected.

The “denial-of-service” (DOS) attack was intended to make the targeted website unavailable to its users, according to RFE/RL’s Director of Technology Luke Springer. “The way this is normally done is by flooding the target website with fake requests to communicate, thereby using up all [the website’s] free sources and rendering the site useless to all the legitimate users,” Springer said.

About Bout – 3

According to a recent report, Bout also left traces in Belorussia between 1996 and 1999, when the Russian arms dealer traded with the Lukashenko regime in what appear to have been Belorussian ventures connected with exporting arms and weaponry abroad.

Meanwhile, Bout’s wife has said in an interview for the London Times newspaper that her husband is a “poet”, not a “the lord of war”.

See also: About Bout
About Bout – II

About Bout – 2

Yulia Latynina has some caustic commentary on the Kremlin’s support for the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout,who is currently is being held in Thailand on suspicion of plotting to sell Russian-made Igla shoulder-fired missiles to Colombian drug cartels:

Bout was poised to sell a mere 100 of these missiles to drug barons, who had been planning to use them to shoot down U.S. helicopters foolish enough to fly over their plantations.

To his credit, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement on Friday that the country would take all necessary measures to ensure that Bout’s rights are not violated.

Bout was arrested on March 6 — more than a month ago — but Moscow’s offer to help the international arms dealer came last week. In the age of instantaneous communications, such a slow response could only mean that some other method was used to establish a connection with authorities — money, for example. When the problem of a Russian citizen arrested abroad can be resolved by a phone call, the result is seen right away. But when these issues are decided with cash payments, this is a more complicated process. Negotiations are delicate, and you have to work out how the money will be transferred. All of this takes a lot of time.

And the juiciest part of the Foreign Ministry’s statement is that Russia has no plans to press charges against Bout. The power ministries have to account for all Igla missiles in their stock, and state arms exporter Rosoboronexport has a strict monopoly on the the trade of Igla and similar weaponry. This system of tight control was instituted to prevent black market sales to terrorists.

See also: About Bout

Mart Laar on Georgia and Russia

The Estonian member of parliament, writing in the Financial Times, sees echoes of the 1930s in Russia’s ongoing annexation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia:

According to Mr Putin’s “instruction”, Russia will open “representations” in the two territories to protect the interests of Russian citizens there and to foster co-operation. Russia will claim that it has many citizens to protect in the two Georgian territories, after it illegally distributed its passports to anyone remaining after the civil wars and ethnic cleansing of the 1990s.

“Those who cannot learn from history,” said George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher, “are doomed to repeat it.” In 1937, Hitler agitated for the rights of the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia; in 1938, he annexed Sudetenland into the Reich, purging it of non-Germans. In Abkhazia, most Georgians, Armenians, Estonians, Greeks and Russians – perhaps 500,000 in all – are already gone. Russia recognises Georgia’s international boundaries, but its actions belie its words.

Russia’s “representations” will be less than official consulates, although consular services will be offered from offices in neighbouring bits of Russia. “Representation” is a euphemism to soothe western fears that Moscow may recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in tit-for-tat retaliation for western recognition of Kosovo. However, in Moscow’s insidious gambit, the “representations” will be among the final steps toward annexation of the two Georgian territories.