Some news items about events in and around Georgia during the last week which have attracted less attention than they deserve:
GEORGIAN LEADER SAYS PANIC COULD LEAD MOSCOW TO START NEW WARS. President Mikhail Saakashvili said that the increasingly negative impact of the world financial crisis on Russia could lead Moscow to become “more realistic, down to earth and pragmatic” but that it might prompt the Russian leadership to launch a new military adventure in order to distract public attention from problems at home, Britain’s “Financial Times” reported
MOSCOW EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA COULD SEND TROOPS INTO GEORGIA IF TERRORIST ACTS CONTINUE. Ruslan Kharabua, a specialist on the Caucasus at the Moscow Institute on the Commonwealth of Independent States, said that Russia would have every right and even a responsibility to send troops back into Georgia if terrorist acts continue or increase
(www.materik.ru/index.php?section=analitics&bulid=219&bulsectionid=25861). Meanwhile, Russian forces remained in two regions of Georgia not part of Abkhazia or South Ossetia, and Russian plans continued to violate Georgian airspace (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1230950.html).
ILARIONOV SAYS SAAKASHVILI BLOCKED COUP BY MOVE INTO SOUTH OSSETIA. Andrei Illarionov, a former advisor to Vladimir Putin, said that President Mikhail Saakashvili’s dispatch of troops into South Ossetia was the only option the Georgian leader had to prevent a coup against him and his government (euobserver.com/9/26921). Speaking in Tbilisi, Illarionov who now works as a researcher in Washington added that Moscow’s claims that Russia had active to defend the lives of Russian citizens “do not hold water” because the Russian government has routinely shown that it “does not care” about Russian citizens.
RUSSIAN TROOPS BAYONETED EUROPEAN UNION FLAGS. According a Polish aid worker, Russian troops shot up and bayoneted not only the flag of the Republic of Georgia but that of the European Union in Gori (euobserver.com/9/26936). Henryk Wlaszczyk said that he had observed that Russian forces had shelled the university there with “high-caliber ordnance,” setting fires to many of that institution’s buildings.
ANTHRAX SCARE AT GEORGIAN EMBASSY IN U.S. When an envelope containing an unidentified white powder arrived at the Georgian embassy in Washington, diplomats there briefly suspended work because of the possibility that the substance could have been anthrax. But after the authorities checked, the mission was able to resume normal operations (www.mk.ru/blogs/MK/2008/10/15/srochno/376202/).
GENEVA TALKS BREAK UP OVER SEATING OF ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA. Talks mandated by the Sarkozy-brokered accord between Moscow and Tbilisi broke up when Russia said that Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be seated as participants, a demand that Georgian officials rejected. (American and EU officials ignored the delegations from the two breakaway republics (www.annews.ru/news/detail.php?ID=169714). The next round of these talks is scheduled for November 18 (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1231070.html).
RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION BODY ADMITS BREAKAWAY REPUBLICS AS OBSERVERS. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and Russia has offered Abkhazia and South Ossetia the status of observers in that body in the expectation that they will become full members of the union by the end of the year. So far, however, Belarus has not recognized either (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1231263.html).
NORTH CAUCASUS MUSLIM CENTER WON’T BE CLOSED, CHIEF SAYS. Ismail Berdiyev, the head of the Coordinating Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus, said Moscow would not close down his organization even though it appeared on the list of 56 religious groups that the Russian justice ministry said it would seek to close (www.muslim-press.ru/ October 16). The center’s appearance on that list, he said, was an accident, the result of its accidental failure to miss filing deadlines.
GEORGIA’S MAESTRO TV TO RESUME POLITICAL PROGRAMS. In a major concession to the opposition, the Georgian government has announced that the Tbilisi-based Maestro television station will be allowed to resume political programming in mid-November (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19750). The station had had its license for political broadcasting lifted when the authorities objected to some of the criticism that people taking part in its programs had expressed.
PUTIN NAMES KOZAK VICE PREMIER FOR SOCHI OLYMPICS. In an indication of just how important the Sochi Olympics are for Moscow and how many problems the Russian government faces in getting ready for them, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has named Dmitry Kozak a vice premier responsible for them. Replacing Kozak as regional development minister will be the deputy Presidential plenipotentiary in the Urals Federal District Viktor Basargin (www.apn.ru/news/article20844.htm).
STALIN’S ROLE IN EXTENDING GEORGIA’S BORDERS RECALLED. After Georgian officials denounced Joseph Stalin as “an enemy of the Georgian people,” a Moscow analyst published a detailed article saying that Stalin was the enemy of many peoples, including the Russians, but that the Soviet dictator had played a key role in expanding the borders of Georgian to include Abkhazia and other regions which, the analyst said, did not belong either historically or properly to the Georgian people (www.materik.ru/index.php?section=opinions&id=33108).
NOBEL PRIZE WINNER SAYS MOSCOW’S MOVES IN GEORGIA UNDERMINED ITS CREDIBILITY. Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland who has just won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as a mediator in international conflicts, said that Moscow had made “a mistake” in attacking Georgia because this action had “eroded the foundation of all of [its] initiatives for a new security system.” Ahtisaari’s comments came after Russian commentators sharply criticized the Nobel committee for selecting him, given his role in the former Yugoslavia (http://www.hs.fi/english/article/Ahtisaari+Georgia+war+hurt+credibility+of+Russian+security+initiatives/1135240235459).