Some news items about events in and around Georgia during the last week which have attracted less attention than they deserve:
RUSSIAN ECONOMY HURT BY CAPITAL OUTFLOW. During August, apparently primarily because of Moscow’s invasion of Georgia, capital flight from Russia, estimated to be as much as 22-25 billion U.S. dollars, has had a major impact on that country’s stock market, down 16.3 percent, ruble exchange rate, down 9 percent against the dollar, and inflation, up by more than twice the figure Moscow projected. Along with the falling price for oil, which has reduced the income of Russian exporters, these changes have been sufficient to lead some analysts to predict that Moscow may default on some of its loans or even change its policies in Georgia (babr.ru/?pt=news&event=v1&IDE=47375 and kontury.info/news/2008-09-05-228).
ANTI-WESTERN ATTITUDES AMONG RUSSIANS STRONGEST IN CAPITALS, SIBERIA. A new poll conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) found that anti-Western attitudes spurred by the Georgian conflict are strongest in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Siberia. But the survey also found that 47 percent of Russians expect that tensions with the West will not last very long; fewer than one in five thinks that relations will remain tense (www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1020776&NodesID=7).
MOSCOW DENIES BUILDING A WALL BETWEEN SOUTH OSSETIA AND GEORGIA. The Russian foreign ministry has flatly denied Georgian reports that Moscow is helping the South Ossetians to build a wall on the southern borders of that republic, and Abkhaz officials have issued a similar denial concerning articles in the Georgian media suggesting that they are building a wall there (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1228506.html).
RUSSIAN FORCES IN ‘BUFFER ZONES’ FAIL TO STOP MARAUDERS BUT BLOCK GEORGIAN HARVEST. Elena Tonkacheva, a member of the International Monitoring Group, said that Russian forces in the “buffer zones” Moscow has unilaterally created on Georgian territory are failing to stop marauders (www.nr2.ru/moskow/194821.html). But one thing they are doing, other sources report, is to prevent Georgians from returning to bring in the harvest, a move that could lead to food shortages there (www.annews.ru/news/detail.php?ID=166608).
SAAKASHVILI SEEKS BROADER POWERS BY PATRIOT ACT. On August 29, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said that Tbilisi needed what he called “a patriot act” to prevent Russians from overthrowing him and his government. He provided no details as to what it might include besides saying that it would “in no way infringe on civil liberties.” But some opposition groups have suggested that he might use such legislation to move against them (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19346&search=patriot%20act).
KARABAKH LEADER CALLS FOR RECOGNITION OF HIS REPUBLIC. Despite Moscow’s indication that it is not prepared to challenge the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan even in the wake of its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Karabakh leader Bako Saakyan said on Russian television that there was “no alternative” to the eventual recognition of that republic (www.polit.ru/news/2008/09/02/kakrabach.popup.html).
TWO ESTONIAN FARMS DID NOT CALL FOR RESTORING ESTONIAN SSR. Russian news media made much of reports that two farms in eastern Estonia had declared themselves the nucleus of a revived Estonian SSR, but an investigation by Tallinn’s “Postimees” found that these calls were either a joke or a hoax (rus.postimees.ee/030908/glavnaja/estonija/40132.php). Meanwhile, however, Baltic media reported that the Russian military appears to be concentrating forces near the Estonian-Russian border ru.delfi.lt/news/politics/article.php?id=18432703).
MOST UKRAINIANS WANT RUSSIAN FLEET OUT, BUT A FEW ARE WILLING TO GIVE CRIMEA TO RUSSIA. A majority of Ukrainians prepared to express an opinion say that they want Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to leave its base after 2017 when the agreement between Moscow and Kyiv governing their presence runs out. Moreover, nearly three-quarters (73.2 percent) said Ukraine must not give Sevastopol and Crimea to Russia. Only one in ten says that Kyiv should agree to such a step (www.ia-centr.ru/publications/2163/). Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov kept up his campaign for expanding Russian control there: If Russia loses Sevastopol, he said, it will lose the Caucasus as well (evrazia.org/n.php?id=3892).
SPB INTELLECTUALS WON’T BREAK TIES WITH GEORGIAN COLLEAGUES. A group of scholars in St. Petersburg sent a message to their colleagues at Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature saying that they would maintain ties despite all the tensions between the two countries (www.zaks.ru/new/archive/view/50159), a message to which the Institute’s staff responded with gratitude (http://www.nr2.ru/culture/194617.html).
GEORGIAN EVANGELICALS CONDEMN ANTI-GEORGIAN HYSTERIA IN RUSSIA. Leaders of the Evangelical Christian community Georgia have issued a statement decrying the anti-Georgian and anti-Western hysteria in the Russian Federation and called on Russians to remember that the two nations have been able to live in peace in the past and should be able to do so again in the future (prochurch.info/index.php/more/13139).
RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA EQUATES ETHNIC AND POLITICAL RUSSOPHOBIA. The SOVA Rights Center in Moscow has called attention to a dangerous trend in Russian government propaganda about Georgia and Georgians. Increasingly, the center’s analysts say, Moscow’s spokesmen fail to draw a clear distinction between those who happen to be members of particular ethnic group and those within that group who may manifest “russophobic” attitudes(xeno.sova-center.ru/213716E/213988B/BA39BD1). Their failure to maintain that distinction, the center suggests, inevitably contributes to xenophobia among Russians and thus to attacks on Georgians and other groups.