Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kodori Night Attack

Vladimir Socor writes that

Increasing direct evidence as well as strong circumstantial evidence suggests that the air attack on Georgia’s upper Kodori Valley during the night of March 11-12 was carried out by Russian helicopters. An investigative report is due for release in the next few days under a United Nations imprint. The political issue at hand is whether the UN would, as usual, seek to obscure Russia’s responsibility.

Two or three helicopters violated Georgia’s internationally recognized air space over the upper Kodori Valley that night, flying in from Russia’s Karachaevo-Cherkessia region. The helicopters, apparently of the Mi-24 type, fired at least 20 guided projectiles, damaging the local government headquarters, a school, and some other civilian administration buildings in several villages. The damaged building in the village of Chkhalta is shared by the government office and a school.

Shrapnel from those projectiles was collected after the strikes. Some additional shrapnel seems consistent with a reported strike by a ground-launched unguided rocket from the Abkhaz-controlled lower part of Kodori, which is monitored by Russian “peacekeeping” troops. No human casualties were reported (Rustavi-2 and Imedi televisions, March 12-16).
In two closely related articles for EDM, Socor suggests that one of the main reasons for such attacks is that Moscow resents the relative prosperity that has come to the upper Kodori valley area under Georgian protection, showing up the rest of Abkhazia in an unfavourable light. He also notes that if the United Nations report fails to point out Moscow’s responsibility in the matter, and the UNSC takes Russia’s side as it did in October 2006, the Russian authorities - and particularly the Russian military - may feel emboldened to launch more attacks, increasing the escalation still further.
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