Day: August 30, 2008

Russia’s invasion welcomed in Middle East

Via the Washington Post. Excerpt:

For some in the Middle East, the images of Russian tanks rolling into Georgia in defiance of U.S. opposition have revived warm memories of the Cold War.Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew last week to Moscow, where he endorsed Russia’s offensive in Georgia and, according to Russian officials, sought additional Russian weapon systems.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s influential son, echoed the delight expressed in much of the Arab news media. “What happened in Georgia is a good sign, one that means America is no longer the sole world power setting the rules of the game,” the younger Gaddafi was quoted as telling the Russian daily Kommersant. “There is a balance in the world now. Russia is resurging, which is good for us, for the entire Middle East.”

In Turkey, an American and European ally that obtains more than two-thirds of its natural gas from Russia, the reaction was more complex. Turks watched as the United States, NATO and a divided European Union hesitated in the face of Russian military assertiveness, leaving them more doubtful than they already were about depending on the West to secure U.S.-backed alternative oil and gas supply lines.

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The role of the OSCE

AFP and BBC say that ahead of Monday’s EU emergency meeting Russia has called for more OSCE monitors to be sent to Georgia. It needs to be recalled that what Russia is currently doing in Georgia is essentially a large-scale, multi-layered spetsnaz operation, in which actions on the ground are combined with propaganda that is interwoven with sudden and apparently unpredictable switches of “policy”, designed to confuse and distract. At the same time as Medvedev’s call for extra monitors (relayed in a statement and also by Medvedev to Britain’s Gordon Brown) went out, Der Spiegel published the news that OSCE monitors have accused Georgia of triggering the crisis on August 7. As Russia is a member of the OSCE, the release of these two pieces of news at the same time is probably no accident.

Update: The Spiegel claim has been rejected by an OSCE official:

The German weekly Der Spiegel separately reported that OSCE observers were blaming Georgia, whose bid to join NATO is championed by the United States, for triggering the crisis in a series of unofficial reports presented to the German government.

However, OSCE spokesman Martin Nesirky later rejected the claim, saying “none of” its regular reports distributed to 56 members through diplomatic channels “contains information of the kind mentioned in the Der Spiegel story.”

Data on Russian troops in Georgia [civil.ge, mia]

MIA Issues Data on Russian Troops in Georgia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 30 Aug.’08 / 13:33

http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19349

The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) released date on deployment of the Russian military on various locations on the Georgian territory as of August 27. 

“All locations and numbers given here are double-checked,” the ministry said. “MIA could not verify all information available and the actual number of both Russian military equipment and personnel on the ground may be much higher.”

Below is the data as provided by the Georgian MIA:

Russian Illegal checkpoints in Georgia

Locations of the Russian illegal checkpoints in the Eastern Georgia, including Shida Kartli, other adjacent areas of “South Ossetia” and “South Ossetia” itself according to the MIA sources as of August 27 2008:

1. Perevi (Sachkhere district)
2. Ghodora (Sachkhere district)
3. Muguti (Znauri district)
4. Ali (Khashuri district)
5. Ptsa (Kareli district)
6. Variani (Gori district)
7. Karaleti (Gori district)
8. Shavshvebi (Gori district)
9. Ergneti (Gori district)
10. Tsiara (Java  district)

Note: There are approximately 60 Russian servicemen and 4 armoured vehicles stationed in each place. The vehicles often move from one place to another “patrolling” the nearby territories and villages.

11. Ikoti in Akhalgori district (7 infantry combating vehicles, 1 armoured vehicle, 6 Ural-type vehicles, 2 Gaz-66 vehicles, 1 military power shovel, 1 mobile medical unit, 2 granade-launchers, trenches are dug, 100 Russian servicemen)
12. Approximately 150 armoured vehicles are stationed on the territory between villages Meghvrekisi and Brotsleti in the Gori district.
13. 1 km North of Odzisi in the Akhalgori district (1 armoured vehicle, 15 Russian servicemen)
14. Village Mosabruni in the Akhalgori district (1 armoured vehicle, 15 Russian servicemen)

Note: Russian servicemen and armoured vehicles on newly opened check-point north of Odzisi and Mosabruni were redeployed from other checkpoints.

Locations of the Russian checkpoints in the Western Georgia according to the MIA sources as of August 27 2008:

Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Region

1. Village Teklati (near city Senaki), on the territory of the former mechanical plant (5 armoured vehicles, 1 crane, 2 Ural-type vehicles, 1 vehicle with communication systems, 1 UAZ-type vehicle, 1 Vilis-type car, 1 large army tent, trenches are dug, 40 Russian servicemen)

2. Village Pirveli Maisi (Khobi district), near former Georgian police check-point (2 armoured vehicles,  2 Ural-type vehicles, 1 UAZ-type vehicle, 1 large army tent, trenches are dug, 40 Russian servicemen)

3. In Poti between villages Shua Khorga and Chaladidi (Khobi district), so called Poti Minor, near the turning to Kulevi oil terminal (4 armoured vehicles, 2 Ural-type vehicles, 1 large army tent, 30 Russian servicemen)

4. Village Menji, Bakaraia neighborhood (Senaki district), on the territory of sanatorium “Menji”, 10 meters from railroad (3 armoured vehicle, 4 Ural-type vehicle, 2 cranes, 1 military power shovel, 1 large army tent, 40 Russian servicemen)

5. Village Kantisubani, between Tsalenjikha-Chkhorotsku road section (3 armoured vehicles, 2 Ural-type vehicles, 1 large army tent, trenches are dug, 30 Russian servicemen)

6. Crossroad at the entrances of villages Chale and Muzhava in the Tsalenjikha district (3 armoured vehicles, 1 Ural-type vehicle, 20 Russian servicemen)

7. Town Chkhorotsku, on the territory of former airfield, near Senaki-Chkhorotsku highway (3 armoured vehicles, 2 Ural-type vehicles, 1 vehicle with electricity generator, 2 large army tents, 40 Russian servicemen)

8. Nabada settlement, at the entrance of Poti (2 armoured vehicles, 1 Ural-type vehicle, 1 UAZ-type vehicle, 1 military power shovel, 1 large army tent, 30 Russian servicemen)

Upper Abkhazia/Kodori Gorge

9. Gentsvisi
10. Omarishara
11. Sakeni
12. Chkhalta
13. Kvapchara

Note: Due to the extremely difficult situation in the region, obtaining accurate numbers on Russian and Abkhaz military deployment is difficult. All sources report substantial Russian and Abkhaz deployments in the region.

In addition, deputy head of the Russian General Staff, colonel-general Anatoly Nogovitsin stated during the press-conference on August 22, 2008 that the Russian armed forces established new checkpoints in the following locations:

14. Khudoni
15.Jikmuri
16.Ochamchire
17.Gupagu
18. Meore Gudava
19. Anaklia
20. Mount Kvira

Note: The Russian side has not denied existence of the abovementioned checkpoints throughout Georgia.

Total number of personnel and vehicles:

• Russian servicemen: 970
• Armoured vehicles: 66
• Infatry combating vehicles: 7
• Grenade launchers: 2
• Ural-type vehicles: 22
• UAZ-type vehicle: 3
• Gaz-66 vehicles: 2
• Vilis-type car: 1
• Military Army tent: 8
• Crane: 3
• Military power shovel: 3
• Vehicle with communication systems: 1
• Vehicle with electricity generator: 1
• Mobile medical unit: 1

Patriotic acts

President Mikheil Saakashvili is proposing a Georgian version of the USA Patriot Act in order to deter possible attempts by Russia to overthrow him and his government, Civil Georgia reports:

“It obvious that their goal was not taking over Tskhinvali, which is Georgia’s provincial town – only few people in Russia may know where it is located,” Saakashvili said at the meeting, which was televised live by the Rustavi 2 TV. “Their [Russia’s] goal was to take over Tbilisi and to overthrow the government.”

He said that Russians made it clear even publicly few days ago – apparently referring to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s August 26 statement in which it said “the Saakashvili regime does not at all meet the high standards set by the world community” and added it was sure that “sooner or later” the Georgian people would have “worthy leaders.”

Saakashvili said that he planned to propose the parliament to develop “the patriotic act” and added that this new legislature – details of which he did not elaborate – would no way infringe the civil liberties.

“This will be carried out under the condition of maintaining democracy, freedom and liberties,” he added and repeated it for couple of more times. 

Meanwhile in Russia, influential voices are being raised with calls for government measures that certainly will infringe civil liberties:

The fallout may be felt most inside Russia itself. Hopes for liberalisation and modernisation under Mr Medvedev have evaporated. In the past few days the Kremlin has rejected Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s parole application, refused to grant Russian citizenship to an investigative Moldovan journalist from Russia and briefly detained protesters in Red Square who held a banner “For Your Freedom and Ours” in a repeat of a protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia staged by dissidents 40 years ago. Views once considered extreme are creeping into the mainstream. For example, Alexander Dugin, a nationalist ideologue, greeted events in Georgia by celebrating the removal of the previous “masks”. “We are at war,” he proclaimed. “Now the country should fight not only against its external enemies but also with the fifth column. Pro-Western liberals …should be interned. War is war. The time of patriots is coming: the time for revenge for all the humiliation from these people that we have been suffering for years.”