OSCE satisfied with Ukraine election

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has declared itself satisfied with the presidential run-off vote in Ukraine, and has urged Yulia Tymoshenko to concede defeat, which so far she has refused to do, Reuters reports.

Update: political analysts in Ukraine and Russia are speculating that Tymoshenko will “bargain” to retain her post as prime minister in a new government.

The misreading of the Resolution

As the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact approaches, the Russian authorities appear to be set on finding justifications for the atrocities that were committed by Stalin’s regime. They are persisting with their plan to bring in a law that will impose criminal liability on anyone – whether individual, group or state authority – who attempts to draw a parallel between the crimes of Nazism and those of Stalinism. At Maidan, Halya Coynash examines the background to the law, and the cynical assumptions that inevitably underlie it. In particular, the proposed legislation represents a deliberate misreading of the PACE resolution:

It is difficult of late to rid oneself of the feeling that the Russian authorities are trying to shout down half the world. Mr Koperov’s point of view regarding the recent OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Resolution “Divided Europe Reunited” (hereafter the Resolution) is repeated by Russia’s Council of the Federation which “strongly condemns attempts to give a biased interpretation of historical facts”. The following is clearly prompted by the Resolution:

“they are resorting to active efforts to reconsider the real reasons for the War and to place blame for the beginning of the War equally on the USSR and Hitler’s Germany and at the same time to absolve those who abetted the Nazis and committed crimes on the territory of countries occupied by the Nazis”.

It would be worth seeking an assessment of the Council’s following conclusions from both political analysts and psychiatrists however there is something else which is even more staggering. There is absolutely nothing in the Resolution which even remotely warrants such an accusation. The Resolution states that:

“in the 20th century, European countries experienced two major totalitarian regimes, the Nazi and the Stalinist, which brought along genocide, violations of human rights and freedoms, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

It only recalls “the initiative of the European Parliament to proclaim 23 August, when the Ribbentrop –Molotov pact was signed 70 years ago, as a Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, in order to preserve the memory of the victims of mass deportations and exterminations”

Do we have a situation like the statements once made in the Soviet Union about the novel “Doctor Zhivago” – “I haven’t read it but I know that it’s disgusting anti-Soviet propaganda”? Hardly likely: the Resolution is put succinctly and it is difficult to imagine that nobody is following the bemused reactions from various organizations, including Memorial, which have already publicly pointed out the bizarre misreading.

I suspect they were counting on something else. They assumed that the Resolution would not be read and that people would simply be indignant at entirely fabricated disrespect for the soldiers of the Red Army. People would be right to feel indignation – were there even a modicum of truth in the allegations. There is not.

Read it all.

Russia launches "Kavkaz-2009" as OSCE monitors leave Georgia

Russia has launched its large-scale military exercises in the North Caucasus, which will last until July 6. According to the Russian defence ministry the military manoeuvres will involve approximately 8,500 personnel, up to 200 battle tanks, 450 armoured vehicles and 250 artillery systems of various types.  General Vladimir Boldyrev, commander of Russia’s land forces, has announced that the Russian troops deployed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia will also take part in the exercises.

Georgia’s deputy foreign minister, Davit Jalagania, has protested about the holding of the exercises, saying that “against the background of the explosive situation ‘they] will only contribute to further tensions.”

Meanwhile, the OSCE mission in Georgia has today wrapped up its operations there – seventeen years after it was established with an initial mandate to facilitate settlement of the South Ossetian conflict, Civil Georgia reports.

On June 16, following Russia’s veto, UNOMIG also ceased its activities in Georgia, including the occupied region of Abkhazia.

Medvedev and "Helsinki-plus"

During talks with Finland’s President Halonen in Helsinki on April 20, and also in a speech he gave at Helsinki University the same day, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev outlined shadowy proposals for a “new European security structure” which would also involve energy-related considerations. The proposals would be discussed at a prospective summit forum in Helsinki, to be called “Helsinki-plus”.

In her blog, the Finnish centre-right politician, OSCE advisor and human rights campaigner Nina Suomalainen comments on Medvedev’s proposals, and wonders what they may actually involve  [my tr.]:

Did Russia’s so-called Helsinki-plus initiative take a step forward in Helsinki, or not? Finland’s chairmanship of the OSCE and the OSCE meeting that was held in Helsinki in December last year stuck closely to the line that the current structures are a good basis for agreement on European security issues.

This week, President Medvedev raised the issue again. For Russia is not very pleased with the OSCE, which it feels pays too much attention to questions of human rights. The holding of free elections has also been another of the OSCE’s preoccupations, and Russia cannot ignore the fact the elections brought about a change of government in Georgia and Ukraine.

However, it is not really clear how President Halonen viewed the matter, except to say that Finland would provide help with regard to the meeting place, and “everything else”. Foreign Minister Stubb, however, seemed skeptical, and reiterated the OSCE’s approach: No new structures are required.

Russia’s Helsinki-plus idea doesn’t really have much precision or clarity, and in spite of efforts that have been made, its content is still not understood. One guesses that it is mainly a proposal for a review of the security question mainly from Russia’s own standpoint, leaving aside all the nonsense about democracy. So it is probable that Helsinki-plus will be on our tables for a long time, and that at some stage it will emerge in the form of a real initiative, as a concession to Russia. Medvedev’s comments and the “maybes” of the Finns fit together like a nose on a head.

Another issue that is creeping up is the Baltic Sea gas pipeline. On the positive side, the opportunity for Finns to make land deals in Russia were high on the meeting’s agenda. Though it sounded – rightly or wrongly – a little as though this was the first that Russia had heard of it. Now it will have to really think about how to react to it.

Hat tip: FinRosForum

Disinformation targeting OSCE

In Georgia the Kremlin currently appears to be trying to use the same weapon of disinformation it has employed in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, arranging provocations – often dangerous ones, involving loss of life – in order to put blame on other parties in such a clumsy way that the credibility of the operation is severely reduced. Most recently these efforts have been aimed against the OSCE and its monitors. On October 3, an explosion in the South Ossetian town of Tskhinvali killed at least 11 people, including Russian soldiers, and South Ossetian sources lost no time in putting the blame on the OSCE itself – the accusations were at once circulated by Russian media, prompting the outrage of the Head of the OSCE Mission to Georgia, Terhi Hakala:

She pointed out that spreading of disinformation about the OSCE mission “may be taken as a signal of unwillingness on the part of those responsible to work constructively.”

“The spreading of untruthful propaganda about the Mission – which includes several previous entirely false accounts connected with OSCE staff and premises – is a serious matter, endangers OSCE personnel,” she added.

Separate tables

The French government appears to be trying to negotiate a private bilateral foreign policy deal of its own with Russia. A report from Sochi, where the French prime minister Francois Fillon has had talks with Putin, points out that

Fillon flew to Sochi at a time when the European Union is reviewing ties with Russia. The EU condemned Moscow’s intervention in Georgia, launched last month to crush Tbilisi’s attempt to retake two pro-Moscow regions.

The new French line seems to be that if the provisions of the Medvedev-Sarkozy deal – which has already been condemned by the U.S., amoong others – are carried out, then there is nothing to prevent France from pursuing trade and energy deals which were held up because of the Georgia crisis. However, statements by Fillon suggest that France’s efforts to resume “business as usual” with Moscow – a goal earnestly desired by Putin and the Russian leadership – go further than a deal between the two countries:

We wanted this meeting to take place at the original time because it’s very important to strengthen the partnership between the European Union and Russia, and France and Russia,” Fillon told Putin at their first meeting late on Friday.

It looks as though more dissension within the ranks of the European Union may now arise because of this, as several nations, including Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic States have stated their opposition to such “partnership-strengthening” until Russian forces have withdrawn to the positions of before August 7, and the issue of EU and OSCE monitors’ access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia – which are being illegally annexed by Russia – has been settled. Neither of these conditions looks likely to be fulfilled in the near future.