Some news items about events in and around Georgia during the last week which have attracted less attention than they deserve:
SAAKASAHVILI OUSTS PRIME MINISTER … President Mikhail Saakashvili removed Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze in what appears to have been a move to take some of the steam out of opposition efforts against himself, including plans for a massive demonstration on November 7th (www.kommersant.ru/news.aspx?NewsID=134224). The president named Grigorl Mgaloblishvili, 35, who has been Tbilisi’s ambassador in Ankara, to be premier and appointed Gurgenidze to head a new government commission to combat the effects of the economic crisis on Georgia.
… NEW PM WINS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE … Mgaloblishvili and his cabinet, which includes four new ministers, won a vote of confidence in the parliament. In the new cabinet: Zurab Adeishvili, the head of the president’s administration is now justice minister, Grigol Vashadze, a deputy foreign minister, is the new minister of culture, Koba Subeliania is refugees minister, and Goga Khachidze, who has been governor of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region is now environment minister (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19872).
… READY TO TALK WITH OPPOSITION ABOUT ALL ISSUES. But more changes are likely. The new prime minister said that four days was too short a time to form a government and that he was prepared to meet over the next few weeks with all groups, including the opposition, to discuss changes in cadres and policies (www.apsny.ge/news/1225594133.php).
GEORGIAN MINISTER SAYS PUTIN PERSONALLY PLANNED GEORGIAN WAR.
Temur Yakobishvili, the Georgian integration minister, told the parliamentary commission investigating the August war that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “personally planned” the invasion of Georgia (kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2008/10/27/61825.shtml). Those hearings continue but so far have not produced any other major charges or revelations (www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1048162).
EXPLANATIONS FOR GEORGIAN WAR MULTIPLY IN MOSCOW. Meanwhile, in the Russian capital, explanations for the Georgian war continue to multiply, leading one analyst to describe that event as “mysterious” (contrtv.ru/common/2911/). In addition to the usual charges that the U.S. and NATO were behind the war or that Putin and/or Medvedev are to blame, one writer has suggested that the Russian military provoked the war to save itself from personnel changes and that the country’s political leadership was forced to support the generals lest it be discredited (contrtv.ru/common/2916/). But probably the most reasonable position was taken by the Memorial Human Rights group: It released a statement saying that both Moscow and Tbilisi were to blame, although to different degrees and for different reasons (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1232291.html).
RUSSIA BLAMES GEORGIA FOR ALL ITS PROBLEMS, TBILISI ANALYST SAYS. But if Russians disagree about who started the war, many Russians are inclined to blame Georgia for all the problems they currently are experiencing, according to one Georgian commentator (www.apsny.ge/analytics/1225131157.php).
RF PUBLIC CHAMBER MEETS WITH AUSTRIAN FAR RIGHT ABOUT GEORGIA. Various groups in both Russia and Georgia are seeking venues for talks about the future, but the Russian Public Chamber appears to have gone too far by meeting with the extreme right Austrian Freedom Party, a group infamous for its denial of the holocaust and other outrages (www.geotimes.ge/index.php?m=home&newsid=13326 and xeno.sova-center.ru/6BA2468/6BB41EE/BEEFA4C). Among those taking part in the meeting was Russian Orthodox Archbishop Pheophan of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz.
HAVING LOST INFO WAR IN GEORGIA, MOSCOW NEEDS NEW STRUCTURES TO FIGHT ONE, TSYGANOK SAYS. Russia must face up to the sad reality that it “lost” the information war with Georgia and then take steps to correct the situation, according to Anatoly Tsyganok, a leading Moscow military affairs analyst (www.fondsk.ru/article.php?id=1714).
Among the steps he calls for are the creation of special organization-administrative and analytic structures within the government generally and the creation of Information Forces within the military which would include both government and military media.
KREMLIN REJECTS UNIFICATION OF CHECHNYA, INGUSHETIA. Even before Moscow sacked Ingush head Murat Zyazikov, the Kremlin put out the word that it was against the unification of Chechnya and Ingushetia, an apparent change in course given earlier statements by Russian and Caucasus officials but one clearly designed to limit the impact of Moscow’s own recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the non-Russian republics of the North Caucasus (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1232290.html).
RUSINS DEMAND AUTONOMOUS REPUBLIC. But if Moscow is seeking to contain ethnic demands inside its own borders, it continues to promote or at least welcome them elsewhere. In the Transcarpathian oblast of Ukraine, a European Congress of Rusins, a Slavic group which sees itself as existing separate from and between Russians and Ukrainians, demanded the transformation of the Transcarpathian oblast into the Republic of SubCarpathian Rus’ (www.ia-centr.ru/publications/2761/). The 109 delegates said they were prepared to fight and go to jail in support of their cause (www.vlasti.net/news/27191), but some Russian commentators have said the Rusins do not pose a major challenge to Kyiv (www.rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=179314).