Day: August 12, 2008

Russian troops are massacring Georgian civilians

This very recently-released Georgian government statement (posted by Estonian member of parliament Marko Mihkelson to his weblog) indicates that the situation both on the ground and in the air is very different from what Russian sources are claiming. Massacres of Georgian civilians by Russian troops are taking place in South Ossetia. 

Government of Georgia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 12 • 17:50
Tbilisi, Georgia URGENT: Georgia confirms continued presence of massive Russian occupation force, bombings, ethnic cleansing & economic warfare. Contrary to some media reports and to the statement by Russian President Medvedev, Russian occupation forces are fully operational in Georgia with at least 12,000 troops throughout the country, many of them outside of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This is no way represents a “halt to military operations” or a “halt to war” as many media outlets are reporting.
Specifically, at this hour:
—Russian soldiers occupy the Georgian Black Sea Port of Poti, which they have destroyed and where they have killed nearly 100 civilians. The port is blockaded and their are tanks on the roads outside of Poti.
In recent hours:
—Russian forces have bombed Gori city center for the first time, where two journalists were reported killed today and a hospital was bombed.
—In western Georgia, Russian troops ordered members of the civil administration to abandon their posts
—In Senaki, Russian forces bombed and are believed to have mined a major Georgian army base. The base had been evacuated prior to the attack.
—Most of the ethnic Georgians who were in South Ossetia have been taken to Kurta detention camp by Russian troops or have been killed by separatist paramilitaries. The massacre is continuing.
—Local witnesses are reporting that Russian troops (or Russian allied militia) are verifying the ethnicity of residents and if they are Georgian they are summarily executing them with a bullet to their head. Reports of such massacres are coming from the villages of Nikosi, Kurta, and Armarishili.
—In Agara, a town outside of the conflict zones, an ambulance was bombed.
In recent hours, the Russian invasion forces also have begun a campaign of economic warfare. Among other attacks, they have:
—Bombed a German-owned cement factory in Kaspi
—Bombed and narrowly missed the BTC pipeline near Rustavi.

Estonia’s President flying to Tbilisi

Via Postimees (my tr.):

The Office of the President of Estonia today confirmed that President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is flying to Georgia, along with the presidents of Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania as well as the prime minister of Latvia.

Ilves says he wants to express his support for the democratic government of Georgia and to acquaint himself with the situation on the ground.

The President will return to Estonia tomorrow, August 13.

Russian airstrikes hit BP pipeline

Via Civil Georgia:

17:43
Speaking at a news conference for foreign journalists in Tbilisi on August 12, President Saakashvili said that the Russian air strikes hit the BP-operated oil pipeline in Georgia.
Earlier this morning the Georgian officials have claimed the Russian warplanes dropped three bombs in the area through which the Baku-Supsa pipeline runs. It was also reported that one bomb hit the pipeline without exploding.

Lost

One occasionally wonders where the BBC gets its foreign correspondents, and where its co-ordination goes at times of heightened international tension.  During the transmission of  President Saakashvili’s moving. eloquent and well-phrased address to more than 100,000 deeply affected Georgian citizens on Tbilisi’s Freedom Square, viewers were treated to a rambling series of voiceovers by bewildered correspondents whose main purpose seemed to be to call the president’s status into question. Mr. Saakashvili had been too “cocky”, we were told, and the assumption had to be that he was not a popular man – he wasn’t fighting for his country, but for his own position, etc., etc. Things were not much better on Sky, where the same lack of any translation of what Mr Saakashvili was actually saying prevailed, and the same insistent and almost desperate attempt to question his authority marked the contribution of the comments by so-called “foreign policy experts” on the voiceover.

When Richard Holbrooke was interviewed by Sky, still with the shots of the Saakashvili speech in frame, the interviewer asked him if he thought that Mr. Sasakashvili was guilty of “hubris”. At this, Holbrooke quite justifiably almost threw a fit, and told the interviewer he was blaming the victim. A shouting match ensued, and equilibrium was restored only when it became clear that Holbrooke could at least agree with the interviewer on the matter of criticizing the Bush administration – in particular, Bush himself and Condoleezza Rice – for its slowness in dealing with the Georgia situation.  

All this, coupled with the Brown government’s shameful 4-day silence on the Georgian crisis, a silence broken only yesterday, when prime minister Brown rather grudgingly, it seemed, issued a statement critical of Russia’s intervention, makes one very doubtful from time to time about the figures who actually control the media and politics in Britain. Perhaps a general election, bring the advent of a Conservative government here, may clear the air – certainly David Cameron’s public statement on the crisis was the most coherent and convincing to be heard from British statesmen, laid the blame fairly and squarely where it belongs, at Russia’s door.