Some news items about events in and around Georgia during the last week which have attracted less attention than they deserve:
RUSSIAN ACTION IN GEORGIA CHANGES POLICY CALCULATIONS OF NEIGHBORS. According to Vitaly Kulik, the director of the Kyiv Center for Research on the Problems of Civil Society, Russia’s military action in Georgia is forcing all the countries of the region to rethink their foreign policies, possibly leading some to be more deferential to Moscow and others to seek protection either by allying themselves more closely with the West or building up their own military forces. In the past, he said, almost all of these countries operated on the assumption that whatever else Moscow might do, it was unlikely to use military force against them (forum.msk.ru/material/fpolitic/517911.html).
IS MOSCOW NOW TRYING TO DESTABILIZE AZERBAIJAN? While there is much debate about who is responsible for both the explosion at Baku’s Abu Bakr mosque and another at an electric power relay station there, at least some people in Azerbaijan now believe that these actions are intended to destabilize Azerbaijan and that Russian special forces are one of the groups that might have an interest in doing so (1news.az/interview/20080818051647158.html).
KAZAKHSTAN SAYS GEORGIA’S EXIT FROM CIS WON’T AFFECT TIES. Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry announced that a decision by Georgia to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States would not have any impact on Astana’s bilateral ties with Tbilisi. The relationship, a ministry representative said, is based on mutual interests and bilateral accords. Such a statement, of course, may make it easier for other countries to consider leaving that post-Soviet grouping, steps Moscow very much opposes (www.easttime.ru/news/1/3/689.html).
ESTONIA’S ILVES CALLS FOR ADMITTING ‘WHAT’S LEFT OF GEORGIA’ TO NATO. Many commentators and officials in the West are arguing that NATO cannot possibly move to include Georgia in its ranks because of the presence of Russian military forces there, but Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has suggested that this should not be an impediment but rather a reason for quick action. And he has called for admitting to NATO’s ranks both Ukraine and “what’s left of Georgia” as soon as possible (evrazia.org/n.php?id=3150).
VORONEZH DEMOCRATS PROTEST MOSCOW’S ACTIONS IN GEORGIA. The democratic opposition in Voronezh on August 22 staged a protest against Russian actions in Georgia, the Sobkorr.ru portal reported. Organizers, who included RNDS, OGF and the Soldiers’ Mothers Movement distributed broadsides against the war, and some ordinary citizens who joined the protest denounced what they called “the senseless ‘hurrah patriotism’” informing Russian moves (www.sobkorr.ru/news/48AEB3582CE50.html).
SOLDIERS’ MOTHERS SEEKS INVESTIGATION ON USE OF DRAFTEES IN GEORGIA. The Russian defense ministry after promising earlier that it would no longer sent draftees into harm’s way acknowledged that it had done just that in the case of the introduction of the 58th Russian Army into Georgia. Now the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers has called on military prosecutors to investigate how this happened, something the union said was a violation not only of official promises but of Russian laws (www.agentura.ru/?id=1219262400).
RUSSIAN ACTION IN GEORGIA EXACERBATES EAST-WEST DIVIDE IN UKRAINE. A poll conducted by “Segodnya” and the Research 7 Branding Group found that 56 percent of people in Eastern Ukraine back Moscow’s actions in Georgia while 51 percent of those sampled in Western Ukraine support Georgia, an indication of the continuing split in that country and one that at least some in Moscow may hope to provoke and exploit (www.vlasti.net/news/20342).
RUSSIAN MYSTIC DOESN’T SEE A GEORGIA IN THE FUTURE. Vanga, a Russian seer whom many Russians look to for predictions, says that he cannot see Georgia continuing to exist in the future (topnews.ru/media_id_4781.html#georgia). Meanwhile, a Russian forensic psychiatrist has said that a picture showing President Mihkiel Saakashvili eating his tie indicates the Georgian leader is mad (www.rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=178086) And the Amal Research Center, a Muslim organization, said that the recent fighting shows that “Georgia is to Russia what Cuba is to the US” (www.rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=178086).
MOSCOW SAYS GEORGIAN REFUGEES CAN RETURN TO SOUTH OSSETIA. Even though South Ossetian leaders have announced that their republic no longer has any ethnic Georgians living there and that they do not plan to allow them to return, the Russian foreign ministry has said, possibly to make itself look good in the West, that Georgian refugees have the right to return there (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1227382.html).
DETAILED MAPS RELEASED ON MILITARY OPS, AIRSTRIKES IN GEORGIA. Several Moscow websites have carried detailed maps of the positions of troops, the location of battles, and the sites of airstrikes. Among the most informative of these maps are those to be found at forum.msk.ru/material/power/519672.html.
NEW UNPO REPORT ON SELF-DETERMINATION IN CAUCASUS AFTER GEORGIA. The conflict in Georgia has reordered many things, including thinking about self-determination in many of the minority nationality areas in the Caucasus. For an update, see the 30-page paper prepared and released by the Unrecognized Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) online at www.unpo.org/images/reports/unpo%20report%20-%20caucasian%20concerns.pdf.