Monday, 11 Aug, 2008 Politics

Georgia Crisis: Genocide or War for Integrity?


With the recent events in Georgia and South Ossetia different newspapers and news agencies provided different information on what happens in the conflict regions. It seems that the political arena was divided into three main segments: the United States, Russia and the European Union. Each one of them provides its own opinion on the issue and a number of opinions proved to be quite controversial.

Russian newspaper Vzglyad wrote that Russia still faces strong pressure from the United States and EU for entering into the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict. US vice-president Dick Cheney told Mikheil Saakashvili that "Russia's aggression must not go unanswered". Though Georgia announced cease fire in South Ossetia, Russian peacekeepers in the region stated that the promise was not kept.

Since the introduction of the 58th army in the conflict region, Russia has been continuously criticized by the United States. Mikheil Saakashvili managed to speak to several European leaders and gain some support. Dick Cheney was the last one that Georgian president managed to talk to.

According to the Associated Press, he called the Georgian leader to express his support in the conflict with Russia concerning South Ossetia. He also expressed "solidarity with the democratic leadership of Georgia in front of the threat of its sovereignty and territorial integrity." Cheney told Saakashvili that in case the Russian aggression continues "it will have serious consequences for its relationships with the US, as well as with other countries from the European Community."

The first wave of criticism arrived from the Georgian permanent representative to the U.N. Irakli Alasania, who called the actions of the 58th army, which pushes Georgian troops away from South Ossetia, "full-scale occupation of Georgia".

He said that Russian troops are killing civilians and the Georgian government. The secretary of Georgian national defense Aleksandr Lomaya, on Sunday announced about the termination of military operations in Tbilisi. He stated that Georgian forces do not fight either in South Ossetia or in Abhazia.

However, the commander of joint forces for peace maintenance in the conflict region, General Marat Kulahmetov, stated that the shooting continued Sunday night through Monday. He mentioned that one of the peacekeepers' posts was bombarded by the Georgian planes. The General said that the main goal for August 11 would be assuring a safe withdrawal from Tskhinvali towards North Ossetia of the convoy carrying the injured and those left without shelter. According to Interfax, the general did not give a "100 percent guarantee" that Georgian forces will not attack the convoy.

The UN also blamed Russia of not willing to talk to the Georgian president after he called Russian president Dmitry Medvedev but the latter refused to talk. In response the current Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, named Georgia the world record breaker for increasing the military budget, which for the last years went up 30 times. "Now we understand what it was meant for", he said.

He added that everything seen in the conflict was neither accidental nor unexpected. Churkyn reminded that for several times Russia called attention to the dangerous situation around Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In regard to the military cooperation between Georgia and the United States he also mentioned that there were 127 military advisers from the US Ministry of Defense working in Georgia at that moment.

According to Russian newspaper, Izvestia, lately an American mercenary was captured in South Ossetia. He was one of the members of Georgian guides, captured near Zar village. It is believed that the American citizen is a NATO instructor. Currently he was transported to Vladikavkaz for further investigation of his presence on the territory of South Ossetia.

Vitaly Churkin in detail told about the involvement of the United States in the conflict. He said that in the same day when the war began, both Georgian and American troops finished full-scale joint military training, called "Immediate response". According to Churkin, 1,000 American troops took part in the training. He said that Georgian armed forces instantly applied what they learned together with the American colleagues in the conflict.

"We wouldn't like to think that the US gave green light to these adventurist actions of the Georgian leadership", said the Russian representative.

Izvestia wrote that Churkin was surprised of Tbilisi's reaction regarding the refusal of the Russian president to talk to Mikheil Saakashvili. "Is there any decent person who would like to talk to the Georgian president?" he asked. "Till now he (Saakashvili) assured that he didn't even have in mind to use force against his own people", mentioned Churkin.

The Russian newspaper also wrote that Moscow looks forward to start the negotiations only after Georgian troops will leave South Ossetia and an agreement will be signed up stating that parties will not use any military force.

Churkin characterized the Georgian aggression as an "ethnical cleaning". "From a population of about 120,000 over a quarter became refugees. Is this an ethnical cleaning or not? Over 2,000 civilians were killed. How many people have to be killed before the situation would be called ethnical cleaning?" he asked the participants of the meeting. No one answered his question.

According to Mikheil Saakashvili, who had an interview with German mass media, Moscow intends to take over Georgia, so it would get control over the energy supply routes coming from Central Asia.

"They want the whole of Georgia," he said in an interview with Germany's Rhein-Zeitung newspaper.

"The Russians need control over energy routes from central Asia and the Caspian Sea. In addition, they want to get rid of us, they want regime change. Every democratic movement in this neighboring region must be got rid of."

According to Reuters, Russia demanded an unconditional withdrawal of the Georgian armed forces from the region.

After arriving to Tbilisi to meet the Georgian president, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said a "controlled withdrawal of the troops" was his major priority.

"Coming back to the table, negotiations, peace talks, a political solution. That's it. Easy to say, very difficult to do," Kouchner told journalists.

Meanwhile, the agency reports that the US continues to blame Russia for its "disproportionate and dangerous" military action in South Ossetia. According to the permanent United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, Russia considers a "regime change" by saying that current president of Georgia, Saakashvili should leave office. Khalilzad also mentioned that Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin indirectly suggested that some leaders in the country became "obstacles" to their citizens.

One of the Reuters reporters said that heavy bombardment took place in regions around Tskhinvali on Sunday evening, though there was no information about which side was firing.

A photographer, working for Reuters, reported seeing dead Georgian soldiers in Tskhinvali, while entering the area together with the Russian troops.

Today the Russian news agency RIA Novosti ( wrote that Russian tourists are stuck in Georgia. According to several eyewitnesses, the local policemen are holding back Russian citizens who came to Georgia whether to see their relatives or for business. Policemen check the documents and then force tourists to return to the place of departure. The officials from South Ossetia have already called the situation "the politics of state banditism" and assured they will take "adequate measures". In addition they accused Tbilisi of bombarding the territory of South Ossetia.

The roads to entry-exit point Sarpi located on the boarder between Turkey and Sadahlo (found on the boarder with Armenia) are closed for Russian citizens. They are also not allowed to enter the capital of Georgia, the agency reported.

The New York Times quoted Georgian sources as saying that on Sunday Russia has expanded its assaults on Georgia. Russian tanks and troops crossed the region of South Ossetia and moved towards the city of Gori, located in central Georgia. The newspaper says that taking into consideration this particular maneuver and the fact that Russian troops bombed Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, the goal of Russia in the region went far beyond securing citizens from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It now focuses on weakening Georgian armed forces.

NY Times also wrote that Georgia pulled out its troops and offered a cease fire but Russia continued its moves, which caused an alarm and anger on the international arena. It says that Russia continued attacks by air, naval and missile assaults. The involvement, according to the newspaper, is the largest engagement of Russian troops outside the country's boarders since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The American officials in Washington stated that Georgian troops made attempts to disengage but Russian armed forces did not allow them to do so.

"The Georgians told them, 'We're done. Let us withdraw," said one American military official said. "But the Russians are not letting them withdraw. They are pursuing them, and people are seeing this."

The newspaper says that diplomats from Georgia and the Western countries offered a cease fire note but Russian officials denied this fact, saying that there wasn't such note. proved the fact that the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave the Russian consul a note which says that according to the order given by the president, Georgia will cease fire in South Ossetia. In addition the note said that all of the Georgian armed forces drew out from the conflict zone. The document stated that Georgian created a humanitarian corridor and made it possible for civilians to exit the conflict zone.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the fact that the note was passed, but focused on the fact that Tbilisi continues its military actions in South Ossetia. "Such note indeed exists", a source from the MFA of Russian Federation told Interfax. At the same time the source added that "Georgian forces did not cease fire in the region."

Another representative from the Russian administration stated that the announcement of the Georgian administration about ceasing fire and retreating of armed forces did not correspond to what was actually happening in the conflict region.

"We were given the note stating that from 5 AM Georgia will cease fire and draw out its forces from the conflict zone, but our sources from the region do not confirm this statement," said the interlocutor of the agency. He said that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs "possesses information that the fire is still going on and the Georgian armed forces did not leave the region completely."

The head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Ossetia, Murat Djioev, said that currently the situation in the conflict area is stable, but the Georgian side periodically keeps firing from heavy weapons.

Now Tskhinvali is under the control of South Ossetian forces and it is possible to start restoring normal life in there.

Vzglyad Newspaper wrote that acute confrontations took place last night in the peacekeepers' zones of responsibility. One of the peacekeepers' posts was bombarded by the Georgian aviation.

The newspaper quoted Russian officials as saying that Russia looks forward to prove to the world that Georgia's actions in South Ossetia represent genocide of people in Ossetia. The evidence of genocide will be collected by the Investigative committee by the prosecution department of Russia. Such order was given by the president of Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev. Meanwhile Georgia asks for peace, Washington states about the worsening of the relationships with Moscow and Germany estimate Tbilisi's chances of entering NATO.

Aleksandr Bastyrkin, chairman of the Investigative committee by the prosecution department of Russia, is appointed to document the crimes of Georgia in the separatist republic for further criminal proceedings.

At the same time Vzglyad Newspaper wrote that the head of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, during the telephone conversation with Condoleezza Rice, mentioned about the numerous military crimes of Georgian armed forces against the citizens of South Ossetia, the result of which is a humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

The BBC News reported that the United Nations refugee agency asked the parties involved in the conflict to grant safe passage to people who want to escape the conflict region - up to 20,000 within Georgia and about 30,000 people fleeing into North Ossetia, a Russian province.

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