Some news items about events in and around Georgia during the last week which have attracted less attention than they deserve:
TBILISI SAYS ‘FURTHER RUSSIAN AGGRESSION’ CANNOT BE RULED OUT. Georgian officials say that the Russian Federation has introduced 2,000 more troops and additional armor and weaponry into South Ossetia over the last ten days, an indication that some in Tbilisi may indicate that Moscow is planning “further aggressive moves. Davit Bakradze, speaker of the parliament said that “we should be ready inside the country and naturally we should work intensively with our foreign partners to engender a sense of alarm among them about these developments.” Russia’s foreign and defense ministries denied the Georgian reports and insisted that Tbilisi had failed to live up to its obligations under the accord brokered by French President Nicholas Sarkozy (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19822).
MOSCOW NAMES AMBASSADORS TO ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA. In addition to forwarding the Russian pacts with the two breakaway republics to the Duma, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev named Semen Grigoryev ambassador to Abkhazia and Elbrus Kargiyev ambassador to South Ossetia. Grigoryev has worked for many years in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and Kargiyev has worked as minister counselor in the Russian embassy in Ankara (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1231849.html).
MOSCOW WANTS COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO PRESS TBILISI ON MESKHETIANS. The Russian parliament has adopted a measure calling on the Council of Europe to investigate why Tbilisi has not lived up to its 1999 commitments to allow the Meskhetian Turks to return to their homeland in Georgia. In reporting this development, the Bagin.info website which acts as a mouthpiece for the Armenian community in Georgia’s Javakhetia region said that Turkey had been pressing for the return of the Meskhetian Turks in order to counter the influence of Armenians in Georgia but that now it was clear that Moscow wanted to use such ethnic issues to put pressure on the government of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (www.bagin.info/default.asp?Lang=_Ru&NewsID=1966&SectionID=0&Date=10/20/2008&PagePosition=1).
‘GEORGIA ONLINE’ REPORT BLAMED FOR PANIC, RUBLE’S DECLINE. Russian officials and media outlets said that the Internet portal, Georgia on Line, was the first to report (apsny.ge/news/1224374181.php) the baseless prediction that the ruble was about to fall to 40 to the U.S. dollar, a false notion that once picked up by Russian sites spread panic and caused many Russians to exchange rubles for dollars and thus depress the value of the Russian currency further. By engaging in this “information attack” on Russian society, Tbilisi is to blame for much of the current crisis, (www.mk.ru/blogs/MK/2008/10/21/society/377051/), and that judgment perhaps explains why the Georgia On Line site has been unavailable since.
RIGA TV SAYS RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT INVOLVED IN PLOT TO KILL SAAKASHVILI. Latvian television reported and Moscow promptly denied that Aleksandr Khapilov, the counselor at the Russian embassy in Riga, was involved in a Russian plot against the life of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili several years ago. Khapilov served as second secretary in the Russian embassy in Tbilisi from 2000 to 2004 and recruited Georgians to carry out the attack, according to the Latvian outlet (korrespondent.net/world/620787 and www.agentura.ru/?id=1224510960).
SOUTH OSSETIAN MVD AUTHORIZES ITS TROOPS TO RETURN GEORGIAN FIRE. The South Ossetian interior ministry has authorized its troops to return fire from the Georgian side of the border, an action that could lead to an incident that might spark broader violence (stoletie.ru/na_pervuiu_polosu/osetinam_razreshili_otstrelivatsya_ot_gruzin_2008-10-20.htm). Meanwhile, Russian and Georgian spokesmen and commentators have traded charges as to who is responsible for a series of explosions, murders, and other violence in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia (ondsk.ru/article.php?id=1707 and www.sobkorr.ru/news/4901ADAE90F46.html).
RUSSIA’S FSB TO GUARD BORDERS OF ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA. The Russian foreign ministry has announced that Moscow will sign an agreement allowing the border service of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, to guard the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as soon as the Duma ratifies the treaties on friendship, cooperation and mutual help. Ratification of those accords is scheduled to take place before the end of October (grani.ru/Politics/Russia/FSB/m.143030.html).
TBILISI UNBLOCKS RUSSIAN WEBSITES BUT NOT RUSSIAN TELEVISION. The Georgian government has ended its blockage of Russian Internet sites, thus meeting a key opposition demand (www.interfax.ru/news.asp?id=40597), but it has not unblocked Russian television broadcasts, thus giving the government greater control over what the Georgian people here (www.vlasti.net/news/26367).
TBILISI PLEDGES TO SHARE AID WITH ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA. After it received pledges from Western governments for more than three billion U.S. dollars in assistance, Tbilisi announced that it would distribute some of that to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a declaration consistent with its insistence that those two regions remain part of the Republic of Georgia (http://www.sobkorr.ru/news/490171ADE06C9.html).
JANE’S SAYS GEORGIAN WAR HIGHLIGHTS PROBLEMS IN RUSSIAN MILITARY. Jane’s Strategic Advisory Services has released a report saying that the conflict in Georgia showed serious problems in the Russian military and suggested that Moscow was not now in a position to fight a larger and more technologically modern opponent (catalog.janes.com/catalog/public/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.ProductInfoBrief&product_id=78826).
GEORGIA WILL OFFICIALLY BE OUT OF THE CIS ONLY IN AUGUST 2009. Although Tbilisi has announced that it has left the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), that organization’s rules impose a one-year waiting period on any such action. Consequently, Georgia will be “officially out” only on August 18, 2009, CIS officials say (http://www.caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=17392).