Some news items about events in and around Georgia during the last week which have attracted less attention than they deserve:
RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL NOT COMPLETE ... French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that Russia had been “relatively satisfactory” in meeting its commitment to withdraw its forces from the so-called buffer zones around Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but he acknowledged that Russian forces remain in two villages Akhalgori and Perevi from which they were supposed to have pulled back. He said that he would “begin discussing” their status in Geneva on October 15 (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19741 Meanwhile, Georgian officials stressed that Moscow remains in violation (www.sobkorr.ru/news/48EF566C725FB.html and www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19739) and that Georgian officials have identified places where Russians have left mines in place (www.sobkorr.ru/news/48EDA66215A48.html).
… AND TBILISI SAYS SUKHUMI, TSKHINVALI SHOULD NOT BE AT GENEVA TALKS. Temuri Yakovashvili, the Georgian minister for re-integration, said that Russian forces also occupy several parts of Abkhazia and South Ossetia which had “never” been “under the control of the secessionists.” He said that “we see now the attempts from Russia to fulfill their obligations by some percentage. This should not be tolerated.” As for talks in Geneva, he added, “war criminals [the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia] should not be invited to those kinds of talks.” Arguing that “the status of the regions is not negotiable,” he argued that the upcoming discussions “should not be dedicated to interpretations of the agreement but to the occupation of Georgia, repatriation of refugees and creating durable security conditions for the stability of the Caucasus” (euobserver.com/9/26910).
TBILISI SAYS MOSCOW PLOTTING TO ASSASSINATE SAAKASHVILI. In May, the Kremlin asked Russian security services to explore the possibility of assassinating Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, and then last month, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council ordered the FSB’s Caucasus Administration and the GRU’s Fifth Department to proceed, according to Georgian sources (www.nr2.ru/incidents/200130.html).
GEORGIAN WAR MARKS END OF RUSSIAN FEDERATION, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. The Russian invasion of Georgia and its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia mark the end of the Russian Federation one way or another, according to Russian experts. Either the invasion will lead to the establishment of a new and larger union state or recognition of the breakaway republics will lead to the disintegration of the Russian Federation (www.ia-centr.ru/expert/2532/).
IMPACT OF RECOGNITION OF BREAKAWAY REPUBLICS SPREADS IN RUSSIA. Ruslan Aushev, the former president of Ingushetia, and Aslan Kodzoyev, the director of the Institute of Caucasus Civilization, have joined those who argue that Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will lead more republics in the North Caucasus to demand independence (www.ingushetia.org/news/15974.html and www.ingushetia.org/news/15920.html). Muslims in Kabardino-Balkaria have now called for independence (www.nr2.ru/moskow/200501.html), increasing instability there (http://www.sobkorr.ru/news/48EF51BC6A5AA.html). And Karachayevo-Cherkessia is said to be at the edge of an explosion as well (www.caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=17132).
MOSCOW ASKS PACE TO PRESSURE TBILISI ON RETURN OF MESKHETIANS. The Russian Duma plans to ask the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to demand that Tbilisi accelerate the resolution of the Meskhetians who are seeking to return there. According to the agreement Georgia has signed, this group, deported by Stalin in 1944, will be fully back in Georgia by 2011 (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1230648.html).
MORE MOVES ON DIPLOMATIC FRONT – BUT NO NEW RECOGNITIONS. The first Abkhaz honorary consulate will open in Nizhny Novgorod, officials there have announced (www.annews.ru/news/detail.php?ID=169402). Meanwhile, Abkhazia has appealed to the European Union for recognition (euobserver.com/9/26877), and Belarus has announced that it may recognize the two if they ask for it (www.caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=17107). And Swedish parliamentarians have challenged the government there for agreeing to represent Georgian interests in Moscow (www.newizv.ru/news/2008-10-06/99171/).
SOUTH OSSETIAN LOSSES HIGHER THAN REPORTED EARLIER, HRW SAYS. Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying that reports based on its earlier press release saying that there were only 44 deaths in South Ossetia were incorrect. HRW said that number represented only the number of bodies its representatives had counted and that the actual number of victims was certainly higher (www.sobkorr.ru/news/48ECC17C63BCD.html).
GEORGIA SEEKING NEW ANTI-AIRCRAFT SYSTEM. Journalist Yuliya Latynina said that Tbilisi is seeking to purchase from Israel or the United States new anti-aircraft weaponry to fill a hole in its national defenses, a step that could increase the likelihood of a new war (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1230767.html).
UKRAINE CONTINUED TO SUPPLY GEORGIA AFTER FIGHTING STARTED. According to a parliamentary committee in Ukraine, Kyiv continued to send arms to Georgia even after the start of military operations there (www.nr2.ru/kiev/199953.html). According to Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow’s representative at NATO, Viktor Yushchenko hoped to hide this by proroguing the parliament and calling new elections (www.polit.ru/news/2008/10/09/rogozin.html)
RUSSIAN HACKER ATTACKS ON GEORGIAN SITES CONTINUE. Russian hackers continue to attack Georgian sites, actions that have prompted Tbilisi to employ the US company Tulip Systems to prevent it (www.annews.ru/news/detail.php?ID=169300).