Day: August 23, 2008

Stumbling into a war

RFE/RL has an article by Brian Whitmore which provides yet more evidence that Russia’s invasion of Georgia was a pre-planned affair. He lists numerous signs that Moscow had made elaborate arrangements connected with events of August 7-8, and points to the fact that “Russia’s state-controlled media seemed extremely well-prepared to cover the outbreak of armed conflict in Georgia. Television networks immediately presented elaborate graphics with news anchors and commentators appearing to stick to disciplined talking points accusing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of aggression, and the Georgian armed forces of genocide and ethnic cleansing.” In particular, Whitmore mentions the testimony of a Chechen Reuters photographer:

Said Tsarnayev stumbled into a war.

A Chechen freelance photographer with the Reuters news agency, Tsarnayev arrived in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, during the day on August 7. Traveling together with a colleague, Tsarnayev said he planned to take photographs of the environment and natural surroundings in the area for a project he was working on.

Once in Tskhinvali, he discovered a virtual army of Russian journalists at his hotel.

Speaking to RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service, Tsarnayev, a resident of the Chechen capital, Grozny, said the Moscow-based reporters had been sent from various Russian media outlets days earlier, and were preparing to cover something big.

“At the hotel we discovered that there were already 48 Russian journalists there. Together with us, there were 50 people,” Tsarnayev said. “I was the only one representing a foreign news agency. The rest were from Russian media and they arrived three days before we did, as if they knew that something was going to happen. Earlier at the border crossing, we met one man who was taking his wife and children from Tskhinvali.”

Late that night, armed conflict broke out between Russia and Georgia.

Germany, U.S. Say Russia’s Pull Out Incomplete [civil.ge]

Germany, U.S. Say Russia’s Pull Out Incomplete

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 23 Aug.’08 / 22:10

http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19276

The White House and the German government spokesmen said on August 23, that Russia has yet to fully comply with its committeemen undertaken by the six-point ceasefire accord.

“Putting up permanent facilities and checkpoints are inconsistent with the agreement,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. “We are in contact with the various parties to obtain clarification.”

Although Russia pulled back its troops from the town of Gori and key east-west highway in the central Georgia, the Russian forces keep checkpoints just outside port town of Poti and the town of Senaki in the western Georgia. Russian troops also have checkpoints on Georgia’s undisputed areas in the north of Gori. The closest one is just five kilometers away from Gori at the village of Karaleti.

“The [German] government expects Russia to complete the withdrawal immediately in accordance with the six-point plan also signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and pull back its troops to the lines [held] before the outbreak of hostilities, as was agreed,” the German government’s spokesman, Thomas Steg, said in a statement, according to Reuters.

“According to our information, Russia has begun its withdrawal from Georgia, but not completed it,” he added.

He also said that German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had spoken by phone to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on August 23.

“The German government expects the remaining Russian troops also to pull back from the zone south of South Ossetia, and for them to be replaced by an international mechanism as quickly as possible, in accordance with the agreements,” Steg said.

In a separate statement Steg also said that Chancellor Merkel had proposed EU to hold “a neighborhood conference” for Georgia.

The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel said Merkel’s idea was Georgia’s neighboring countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan to participate in the conference, but not Russia, Reuters reported.

The Other Concert

In his Window on Eurasia blog, Paul Goble writes about a concert that was held in Tallinn, Estonia, last week to celebrate the anniversary of the restoration of Estonia’s independence in 1991 and to declare solidarity with the people of Georgia in the face of Russian aggression:

Unlike the Tskhinvali event, what happened in the Estonian capital has attracted little attention. It deserves to be better known.

More than 120,000 people assembled in the Song Festival grounds on the outskirts of Tallinn, to listen to Estonian and Georgian music groups, to wave Estonian and Georgian flags, and to listen to and cheer an address by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (rus.postimees.ee/200808/glavnaja/estonija/39344.php, including a link to video of the event).

The Georgian singers expressed their gratitude to the support Estonia has given Tbilisi – Ilves joined the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in travelling to Georgia following the Russian invasion – and the Estonians in the audience cheered the Georgians. But the most important part of the concert in terms of its message was Ilves’ speech.

Read it all.

US: "Russian invasion will hasten NATO membership for Georgia"

Russia’s invasion of Georgia will speed Georgia’s accession to NATO, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, US envoy to the Caucasus Matthew Bryza has said: “I think what Russia has done now is the strongest catalyst it could have created to get Georgia in NATO.” Bryza says he hopes that Georgia will be offered a Membership Action Plan in December.

Russia claims Tbilisi plans ‘subversive acts’ [civil.ge]

Russia Claims Tbilisi Plans ‘Subversive Acts’

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 23 Aug.’08 / 15:16

http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19274

A Russian military official has claimed that Georgia is restoring military capabilities “for repeat aggression.”

“Georgia is not being threatened by anyone in this region,” Anatoly Nogovitsin said at a news conference in Moscow on August 23. “However, in an attempt to resolve its territorial problem, Georgia has actually announced it is preparing for a third conflict – it seems two conflicts were not enough.”

Nogovitsin claimed that “provocations” were expected. He also claimed that Georgian special services were caching arms in order to use them for “subversive acts in South Ossetia and in its vicinity.”

Humanitarian Aid for Georgia

The European Union says it will provide 5 million euros in new aid to Georgia, and Japan has announced that it has sent one million US dollars in emergency humanitarian assistance to help over 150,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Meanwhile, the USS McFaul is the first of three US navy ships carrying humanitarian aid, in the form of essential basic supplies, to approach Georgian waters. The US has already sent over 11 million dollars’ worth of assistance.

Moscow called on cyberterrorists to attack Georgian government networks

In a report on a British government statement which confirms that Britain faces a steadily increasing threat of cyber attack, particularly from Russia and China, the London Times points to evidence that reveals the Kremlin’s involvement in cyberterrorism against Georgia:

SecureWorks, an Atlanta-based company, said it had discovered communications suggesting that computers associated with Russian state-owned organisations called on known web-based criminal gangs to attack Georgian government networks hours before airstrikes began nearly two weeks ago. Lord West [Britain’s Security Minister] said that he could not comment on the claims.