Thursday, April 30, 2009

NATO expels Russian diplomats

Here and here.

Selective outrage

Writing in the Australian, Brett Stephens asks: Why is Palestinian statehood considered a global moral imperative, but statehood for Chechnya is not?

Hat tip: Avi Goldstein, via  Prague Watchdog

Georgian opposition facing problems of PR

As small and dwindling protests continue in Tbilisi and elsewhere in Georgia, their organizers are trying to find ways of provoking the authorities to acts of violence, in the hope of reviving the protesters' public image as victims. So far the Saakashvili authorities haven't fallen into this trap, and have studiously avoided physical contact with the demonstrators. Jamestown's Vladimir Socor writes that the protesters seem to have misunderstood the nature of western human rights democracy, and find that they are having to justify to foreign observers their tactics of blockading the Georgian Parliament and other public buildings:

European envoys are increasingly concerned and frustrated by the opposition's strategy of confrontation. French ambassador Eric Fournier declared, "Because of the [opposition's] activists, the parliament chairman must hold meetings at a hotel, not in the parliament building. We regret that some people have decided to act against the law and violate the democratic constitution. It is inadmissible that we should gather at a hotel to meet the chairman of the parliament. This is a lamentable fact" (Rustavi-2 TV, April 25). The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly Secretary-General Terry Davis told the opposition that "any issues should be discussed in negotiations, not in the streets;" and reproached it for having refused to take up their parliamentary mandates after the 2008 elections (Rustavi-2 TV, April 28).

Opposition leaders, however, demand Saakashvili's resignation and the holding of general elections (only one year after the last elections). They denounce the "criminal Saakashvili regime," as they have done continuously since 2007, and insist that a dialogue should only pertain to the modalities of resignation and early elections (Imedi-TV, Public TV, Kavkas-Press, April 25-28).

Unaccustomed to and intolerant of European criticism, some opposition leaders bristle in response. One of them, French-born diplomat Salome Zourabichvili, felt duty-bound to apologize to the crowd at the rally over Fournier's remarks; and she retorted to "Davis or any Englishman" that their call for dialogue was like "dialogue with Hitler" (Rustavi-2 TV, April 28). Other opposition leaders, parochial and unfamiliar with European institutions, imagine as "Conservative" leader Kakha Kukava told the crowd, that Europe will pressure Saakashvili into a dialogue about resignation (Rustavi-2 TV, April 25, 27).

The authorities adhere to the policy of non confrontation, no physical contact with the opposition in the streets, and openness to dialogue toward a political agreement with opposition groups. Saakashvili called for such dialogue most recently in his April 23 speech at a factory outside Tbilisi and his April 28 remarks in the city, following a special church service convened by the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II. The Patriarch had publicly appealed to opposition leaders to attend the service; but they did not seem to be on hand, with the exception of Alliance for Georgia leader Irakli Alasania, who accepted to shake the president's hand (Imedi TV, April 28).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The indiscreet charm of totalitarianism

At Fifi, Veli Itäläinen raises some questions about Russia's National Bolshevik Party, a motley assemblage of artists, poets and hangers-on which is sometimes seen as having a role to play in the defence of human rights:

It's generally assumed that artists are a little extravagant. They are forgiven more. But is a fascist always completely harmless, if he happens to be an artist?

Hat tip: FinRosForum

Saturday, April 25, 2009

More unrest in Chechnya

With news within the last 24 hours of three explosions in Grozny, an armed clash with insurgents and an attack on police by insurgents in a fifth Chechen district, Nozhai-Yurtovsky, it looks as if the Chechen conflict may be intensifying once again. In fact, the process of activation appears to have begun even earlier - before the official announcement of the ending of counter-terrorist operations (CTO) in the republic. Jamestown reports that

The news of renewed counter-insurgency activities by both local and federal authorities in Chechnya came amid reports that three Russian Defense Ministry contract servicemen were killed in the village of Bamut in Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan district on April 21. Interfax on April 22 quoted a source in the headquarters of the Russian combined federal forces in the North Caucasus as saying that the three servicemen, a sergeant and two privates, were traveling in a tank truck carrying drinking water when unidentified gunmen fired at them, apparently from an abandoned house on the outskirts of the village. The source said that a military patrol arrived at the scene soon after the incident, but that the gunmen had already fled. Reuters on April 22 quoted a spokesman for the Russian security forces in Chechnya as saying that after the three soldiers were shot and killed, their weapons were stolen.

The commentator Yulia Latynina reported on Ekho Moskvy radio on April 18 that on the eve of the announcement of the cancellation of the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya, two members of the Vympel special operations unit of the Federal Security Service (FSB), including a high-ranking officer, had been killed in separate explosions in Chechnya. According to Latynina, the federal authorities had not reported the deaths of the Vympel personnel so as not to ruin the celebrations marking the end of the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya or possibly delay an announcement that the operation was over. reported on April 21 that the FSB had confirmed the death of one Vympel member in Chechnya and that the slain officer may have been a colonel.

Friday, April 24, 2009

CTO reintroduced in Chechnya

CTO (counter-terrorist operation) restrictions have been reintroduced, and military operations launched, in four districts of Chechnya, just a week after President Kadyrov announced the ending of the CTO. The restrictions and hunts for insurgents now affect the Shalinsky, Vedensky, Shatoisky and Itum-Kalinsky districts. (Reuters and

New Jamestown blog

The Jamestown Foundation has started a new blog focusing on Russia and Eurasia. Recent posts include analyses of Russian reaction to forthcoming NATO exercises in Georgia, and the paradoxes and conflicts inherent in the recent Israel-Russia UAV deal.

No Eastern Partner

The European Union is currently launching something called an "Eastern Partnership", which is designed to cement links with six neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus. Quite why Belarus has been included in the "reach-out" plan is something of a mystery. If Belarus accepts the invitation to attend the Eastern Partnership summit in Prague on May 7, this will grant the republic a legitimacy it clearly does not deserve, in view of the widespread repression that is still taking place within it. Now Maidan writes that one of the leaders of the Belarus opposition who is also Co-ordinator of Charter 97

has rejected an invitation to attend events connected with the EU Summit in Prague. He believes the invitation issued to Lukashenko to be a grave mistake. He names just three political prisoners - Mikalai Autukhovich, Yury Lyavonau, Uladzimir Asipenka and says that the first has been on hunger strike for more than a week demanding an open trial.

“Political repressions go on in our country, many Belarusians have had to emigrate due to political persecution, the authorities refuse to register political parties and NGOs, peaceful demonstrations are brutally dispersed and banned, we do not enjoy even minimum freedom of speech, youth activists are unlawfully drafted for military service. The authorities don’t investigate the cases of kidnapped opposition leaders and a journalist although the international community suspects them of involvement to these crimes. I think inviting Dictator Lukashenko to Prague when demands to release political prisoners and stop political repressions have not been met was a great mistake.
That’s why I have taken the decision not to go to Prague.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Medvedev and "Helsinki-plus"

During talks with Finland's President Halonen in Helsinki on April 20, and also in a speech he gave at Helsinki University the same day, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev outlined shadowy proposals for a "new European security structure" which would also involve energy-related considerations. The proposals would be discussed at a prospective summit forum in Helsinki, to be called "Helsinki-plus".

In her blog, the Finnish centre-right politician, OSCE advisor and human rights campaigner Nina Suomalainen comments on Medvedev's proposals, and wonders what they may actually involve [my tr.]:

Did Russia's so-called Helsinki-plus initiative take a step forward in Helsinki, or not? Finland's chairmanship of the OSCE and the OSCE meeting that was held in Helsinki in December last year stuck closely to the line that the current structures are a good basis for agreement on European security issues.

This week, President Medvedev raised the issue again. For Russia is not very pleased with the OSCE, which it feels pays too much attention to questions of human rights. The holding of free elections has also been another of the OSCE's preoccupations, and Russia cannot ignore the fact the elections brought about a change of government in Georgia and Ukraine.

However, it is not really clear how President Halonen viewed the matter, except to say that Finland would provide help with regard to the meeting place, and "everything else". Foreign Minister Stubb, however, seemed skeptical, and reiterated the OSCE's approach: No new structures are required.

Russia's Helsinki-plus idea doesn't really have much precision or clarity, and in spite of efforts that have been made, its content is still not understood. One guesses that it is mainly a proposal for a review of the security question mainly from Russia's own standpoint, leaving aside all the nonsense about democracy. So it is probable that Helsinki-plus will be on our tables for a long time, and that at some stage it will emerge in the form of a real initiative, as a concession to Russia. Medvedev's comments and the "maybes" of the Finns fit together like a nose on a head.

Another issue that is creeping up is the Baltic Sea gas pipeline. On the positive side, the opportunity for Finns to make land deals in Russia were high on the meeting's agenda. Though it sounded - rightly or wrongly - a little as though this was the first that Russia had heard of it. Now it will have to really think about how to react to it.

Hat tip: FinRosForum

U.S. says Georgia NATO exercises "not provocative" []

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 22 Apr.'09 / 10:57

NATO’s planned multinational exercises in Georgia are “not provocative” and “we believe that they’re important to go forward, and we’re going to do so,” Robert Wood, an acting spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, said on April 21.

“The NATO exercises are a normal part of NATO’s relationship with Georgia,” he said. “And the purpose of these exercises is to help Georgia meet NATO standards. I know there have been reports about Russia being concerned about these exercises. These exercises are no threat to Russia, to anybody else, and they’ve been in the planning stages for a long time.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused members of Nato of reverting to the "confrontational logic of the Cold War".

In an interview with the BBC Russian service on April 21, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said that NATO was reverting to the “confrontational logic of the Cold War.”

He said that the roots of the diplomatic hostility lay in NATO’s “unilateral position” on the August war. Lavrov said the alliance members refused “to even debate the reasons for the conflict.”

Nineteen NATO-member and partner countries were initially to take part in the exercises, which will take place from May 6 to June 1 in Vaziani military base, twenty kilometers east of Tbilisi. On April 21, after Russia’s protests, however, Kazakhstan said that it would not take part. Other countries planning to participate are: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Serbia, Spain, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Norway at Durban 2

A couple of notes on events that marked the first day of the Durban II conference.

After Ahmadinejad's tirade, Norway's foreign minister delivered a rebuke:

I heard the messages in the President’s speech – and they amount to just that: Incitement of hatred, spreading politics of fear and promoting an indiscriminate message of intolerance.


The Iranian President’s allegations run counter to the very spirit and dignity of this conference. I will not respond to all the allegations. Through his message the president has made Iran the odd man out. And Norway will not accept that the odd man out hijacks the collective effort of the many.

On the other hand, Norway's Christian Democratic Party leader Dagfinn Høybråten noted in a written commentary sent to the Norwegian daily Aftenposten that it was [my tr.]
sad and incomprehensible that the Norwegian delegation chose to remain seated and listen to the Iranian president's emotional and subjective attacks on Israel, while nearly all the other European countries left the hall.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Saakashvili: Georgia should show "maximum restraint"

“When Russian politicians say: ‘we want to have good relations with Georgia’ – I want to tell everyone who wants to believe it, to look thoroughly to maps which are being printed today in Russia. When they say: ‘we want good relations with Georgia’ – under Georgia they mean: Tbilisi, part of Kartli region; Kakheti; part of Imereti and maybe Racha-Lechkhumi as well. For them Georgia is not the same Georgia as it is for us and for rest of the world.”

As long as such stance persists in Russia, he continued, Georgia should be “extremely cautious” and should show “maximum restraint.”


Britain is attending Durban 2

Britain still plans to attend the conference, prompting an editorialist in the Times to comment:

Lord Malloch-Brown, the Minister for the UN, says he had never, in a long UN career, “seen such a disgraceful event”; yet he justifies Britain's going to Geneva as “damage limitation”. But the damage will be compounded. This conference will not only “reaffirm” the shameful Durban declaration, but will issue another that, on the pretext of outlawing “derogatory stereotyping and stigmatisation of persons based on their religion”, would oblige states to “prevent the emergence” of groups with “discriminatory ideas”.

Update: And the predictable happened.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

U.S. Will Not Attend Durban 2

The United States will not attend next week's Durban 2 conference, Reuters reports.

An interesting feature of the growing list of non-attendees is that, surprisingly, Sweden has also announced that it will boycott the conference.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Durban 2 Divides Civil Society

Durban II divides civil society.

U.S. May Attend Durban 2 - 3

Haaretz reports that the final text of the Durban 2 declaration "omits references to Israel, Zionism, the Middle East conflict and other divisive issues that have made Western powers shy away...", thus increasing pressure on the United States to attend the conference.

However, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is still scheduled to speak at the event, with the possibility that his remarks will prompt a walk-out like the one in 2001.

U.S. May Attend Durban 2 - 2

Negotiations are continuing for a compromise agreement that would enable the United States to attend the Durban 2 conference in Geneva. But, as the Jerusalem Post points out,

even as diplomats squared off over language for an acceptable text, opponents of the conference [...] argued that the event was tainted and could not be rescued because of the heavy involvement of human rights abusers such as Libya and Iran.

Libya has chaired the planning committee, whose membership includes countries like Iran and Cuba.  

The Post also draws attention to the fact that

Saudi Arabia, which also has a problematic record on human rights, has contributed $150,000 to the event, China $20,000 and Iran $40,000.

Russia, which has chaired the committee on the draft text, has donated $600,000.

WJC secretary-general Michael Schneider is quoted as saying that the forthcoming Geneva event is being set up in a dangerously ambiguous way, with the possibility that even if a text that is acceptable to the United States is agreed, amendments may be proposed from the floor during the proceedings and adopted without warning:
"...My feeling is that people who want to harm Israel are playing a game," he said. "It seems as if the United States is caught between its foreign policy prerogatives and the anti-racism conference."

The heart of the question appears to be how to remove the emphasis on Israel at the conference, and to focus on the many other human rights issues across the world.

Hat tip: Leopoldo

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NATO Exercise Planned in Georgia []

NATO Exercise Planned in Georgia

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 16 Apr.'09 / 12:26

NATO plans military exercises in Georgia in frames of Partnership for Peace programme from May 6 to June 1 to improve “interoperability between NATO and partner countries,” NATO said in a statement on April 15.

Cooperative Longbow-2009 will be command post exercise in crisis response operations at the multinational brigade level. A field training exercise, Cooperative Lancer-2009, will then follow to provide basic training on peace support operations at the battalion level, according to the NATO statement.

Exercises will be held in Vaziani military base, twenty kilometers east of Tbilisi, with participation of about 1,300 personnel from nineteen NATO and partner countries: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Serbia, Spain, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

The statement also says that the planning for these exercises began in spring 2008.

CTO ended in Chechnya

Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee has adopted an act that brings an end to the CTO (counter-terrorist operations) in Chechnya, the BBC reports.

More analysis here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

BBC Acknowledges Bias

The BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) has upheld complaints about the BBC's reporting of events in the Middle East, particularly with regard to its coverage of Israel. Z-Word blog and Harry's Place have extended commentary.

More on Durban 2

Haaretz has more on the issue here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

U.S. may attend Durban 2

A report in Haaretz says that the Obama administration is reconsidering its planned boycott of the controversial United Nations racism conference, which will be attended by Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Saakashvili: "Georgia has more international support"

President Saakashvili said that Georgia now had more international support than it had before the August war and cited Georgia’s strategic partnership with the United States and Georgia’s planned participation in EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative for six former Soviet states.


Saakashvili: no danger of new Russian "military adventure"


President Saakashvili said that despite large-scale military build-up of the Russian forces both in Georgia’s breakaway regions and on Georgia’s borders, he did not think that Russia would “renew any large-scale military adventure.”

“That’s true that now the concentration of the Russian [forces] within [referring to breakaway regions] and outside Georgia exceeds the scales, which were during last August,” Saakashvili told a small group of television reporters after meeting with doctors in one of Tbilisi’s outpatient centers.

“But I still think that in fact now there is no situation for Russia to renew any large-scale military adventure. Because, firstly, all this was aimed at possible internal unrests [in Georgia] and as the recent developments have clearly shown that no matter how much money they will spent and what they will do, Georgia is a stable country and it is impossible to trigger serious unrests here. And on the other hand, we have much more international support today than we had last August,” Saakashvili added.

Russian military build-up continuing in Abkhazia, S. Ossetia


The Russian Federation is increasing its military presence on the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Davit Nardaia, head of the Defense Ministry’s Analytical Department.

“This process is especially actively underway in Gali [breakaway Abkhazia] and Akhalgori [breakaway Abkhazia] districts,” he said on April 13 after meeting with a group of foreign military attaches.

Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, said that “neutralization of this threat will depend on how we will manage to reduce political tensions inside the country.”  

Meanwhile the Georgian interior ministry has released CCTV footage of scenes during an incident outside the Georgian Parliament in the early hours of April 12.
The first five minutes of the released footage shows men in uniforms of the municipality’s cleaning service cleaning the area; at one instance men in cleaner’s uniforms are seen taking wooden planks and putting them into a garbage truck; planks are used by protesters for an improvised fence dividing an area where an improvised press room and other installations are located from rest of the protest venue. Another man dressed in civilian is also seen helping cleaners. Then the footage shows about two dozen of men, dressed in civilian clothing, who were apparently quarrelling; some minor scuffle is also seen; some men are also seen standing nearby just watching without intervening. Couple of minutes later, the footage shows, several men brawling with each other, followed by some of them running away from the scene. Men, dressed in municipal cleaning service uniforms, are not seen in this footage to be involved in the incident. The released footage from that one particular CCTV camera did not provide a full view of a tent, which is turned by rally organizers into an improvised press room in which, according to the opposition activists, some computers have been smashed by “attackers.” The venue is packed with several CCTV cameras providing view from various angles. Some opposition activists claimed that some “attackers” were dressed in civilian clothing, with some of them holding wooden batons; while others said that some “attackers” were dressed in the municipal cleaning service uniforms. Gigi Ugulava, an influential Mayor of Tbilisi, told Rustavi 2 TV on April 12, that employees from the cleaning crew were verbally insulted by the opposition activists, which triggered the incident. He said that some of the employees from the municipal cleaning service, who were technician staff, were present on the scene and dressed in civilian clothing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saakashvili: Russian Oligarchs Fund Georgia Opposition []

Saakashvili: Russian Oligarchs Fund Georgia Opposition
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 12 Apr.'09 / 17:28

In an interview with Newsweek published on April 11, President Saakashvili speaks of sources of opposition funding, about his U.S. friends, his stance of U.S. under Bush and Obama administrations, as well as about being disappointed with the West putting relationships with Georgia on hold while waiting for the outcome of the street protest rallies.

Asked who sponsors the Georgian opposition, Saakashvili responded: “Most of the money—millions of dollars—comes from Russian oligarchs. I have documentary proof of that, which I am not making public yet. Whether the money is being sent from Russia under the supervision of the Russian government, that I do not know.”

He said that the Russian authorities would “probably be happy to see me leave the post.” Although saying that he did not think that Russia’s PM and President, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, respectively, “would appreciate” an idea of again attacking Georgia, Saakashvili also added: “I could suppose that some of the military authorities in Russia think of attacking Georgia today, to say later that it was me who invaded Russia to distract the attention of my opposition.”

He said that in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia Russia had 5,000 troops in each.

Asked about who where his supporters in the United States, Saakashvili said he had “quite a few good contacts;” he said that John McCain was he “best friend” and added that he was expected to arrive in Georgia “in a week or so.”

“I have good relationships with Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and especially Richard Holbrooke—he is my teacher. I learned a lot of great things from him,” Saakashvili said.

“I used to idealize America under Bush, when ideas were above pragmatic politics. Now it is a new time, when pragmatic politics are in charge of ideas. That might spoil the America I know,” he said.

Asked what he would change in his policy towards Russia if he could turn time back, Saakashvili responded that he could “hardly do anything differently.”

“The values we appreciate are not embraced by Russia. Should I have compromised? If I did, we would have been like Kyrgyzstan, losing our democratic values now, or as poor as Armenia, whose economy fully depends on Russia,” he said.

He also said that he was not hurt by the criticism in Georgia. “I am hearing it from two opposition TV channels [Maestro and Kavkasia] all day long,” Saakashvili said.

“I did not expect the West to put all the relationships with us on hold while waiting for this revolution. An official delegation from France decided to postpone their visit. A Turkish company moved a scheduled contract signing until after April 9, and an Arab company until April 12. What is the matter with these people? Do we stop going to Paris or Strasbourg during their street protests?” he added.

No double cross

Never known for obfuscation or ambiguity where the question of U.S.-Russia relations is concerned, Iran's PressTV news service has an interesting turn of phrase on the subject, borrowed from Russia's foreign minister:

Russia to never 'double cross' Iran for US.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unwanted allies

Although it may be some time yet before the true implications of the Obama administration's new foreign policy become unambiguously clear, there are already worrying signs that it is seriously on the wrong track. While some normally critical commentators have been willing to give Obama the benefit of a "wait-and-see" doubt, the aftermath of his European tour has revealed a scenario that is all too familiar. The most glaringly obvious part of it is the attitude towards global security that the Russian leadership is currently taking. As is it usually does, Moscow is talking smooth talk about "encouraging" features of U.S. Russia policy - but this time there are additional, concerning aspects. While it curries favour with the White House, taking advantage of the warm glow that still persists within Western liberal public opinion after the new President's arrival, Moscow continues to ram home points about its own inflexible and implacable position with regard to issues like NATO enlargement (Russia appears to be positioning its forces for a possible new military intervention in Georgia) and pressure on Iran (Russia refuses to exert more pressure). And the Kremlin isn't encountering much resistance from Washington. In the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick doesn't waste time mincing words, and points out:

Whether they are aggressors like Russia, proliferators like North Korea, terror exporters like nuclear-armed Pakistan or would-be genocidal-terror-supporting nuclear states like Iran, today, under the new administration, none of them has any reason to fear Washington.

This news is music to the ears of the American Left and their friends in Europe. Obama's supporters like billionaire George Soros couldn't be more excited at the self-induced demise of the American superpower. CNN's former (anti-)Israel bureau chief Walter Rodgers wrote ecstatically in the Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday, "America's... superpower status, is being downgraded as rapidly as its economy." 

Glick suggests that in this new highly, insecure situation, the U.S.'s "unwanted allies" - be they Poland, and the Czech Republic, Israel or Japan - will have to build alliances with one another -

covertly if need be - to contain their adversaries in the absence of America. If they do so successfully, then the damage to global security induced by Obama's emasculation of his country will be limited. If on the other hand, they fail, then America's eventual return to its senses will likely come too late for its allies - if not for America itself.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Russia increasing troop levels in Abkhazia

The Georgian government says that Russia is increasing its military presence in Abkhazia in order to take advantage of the current unrest in Georgia, according to On April 8, RFE/RL's Georgia Service reported that Russian troops began entering Abkhazia's Gali region on April 7, and the military buildup has been continuing ever since.

Russia evidently hopes to destabilize the situation in Georgia, which is being aggravated by opposition protests.

A deal undone - 2

The tension and uncertainty that have followed the assassination of Sulim Yamadayev in Dubai are having their effect on the whole of the North Caucasus region, and Prague Watchdog's Ruslan Nasipov asks Why are the counter-terrorist operations not being lifted? [my tr.]

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A deal undone

"Three days after Yamadayev's death, the Security Council refused to formally end counterterrorist operations in the republic.
The decision followed public statements by Kadyrov days earlier in which he described the lifting of the operations as a done deal."

Nabi Abdullaev, in the Moscow Times

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lavrov comments on Georgia []

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 6 Apr.'09 / 15:04

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said Moscow was concerned that “military rhetoric does not quiet down in Tbilisi” and added that “there are serious grounds to suspect that new provocations with use of force are being prepared.”

“It is deplorable that against this background some of Tbilisi’s friends are still engaged in arming Saakashvili’s regime,” he said in an interview with the Russian state newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, published on April 6.

Below is an extract from the interview in which Lavrov speaks about Georgia:

“We have no illusions in respect of Mikheil Saakashvili. For a long time, practically throughout his presidency we tried to establish normal cooperation with Georgia. Under Vladimir Putin’s instruction I traveled to Tbilisi in early 2005. As a result of the negotiations with Saakashvili and [then] Foreign Minister [Salome Zourabichvili], a decision was made about speeding up withdrawal of two Russian military bases from Georgia. At the same time, Saakashvili agreed on a package of agreements: we pull out the bases (and we have withdrawn the bases even earlier, than it was scheduled), create a joint Russian-Georgian anti-terrorism center that would have demonstrated our readiness for cooperation in the sphere of security, while Georgia would have adopted a law banning forever stationing of foreign bases on its soil.

We have fulfilled the agreement on our part. Mikheil Saakashvili did not fulfill anything. There were only humble contacts about creating the anti-terrorism center, which were later suspended by the Georgian side. This person’s [reference to President Saakashvili] incapability to negotiate was demonstrated already then.

As far as the August events are concerned, there is no lack of facts, plenty of which have been submitted by the Russian side, the general staff of the Russian armed forces, western experts and journalists. Everything is published and well-known.

Upon the initiative of the European Union, a commission on probing into these facts has been set up. We are cooperating with it. Simultaneously, we want that all those, who more or less were connected with the August events, cooperate with this commission, to ensure that the commission is really engaged in revealing the role of those states, which were arming Georgia, look at what kind of armament and through which channels this armament was supplied; whether they were supplied only through legitimate or secret channels as well; at what prices; how all these comply with those codes, which were adopted by the European Union and OSCE envisaging the prohibition of offensive arms supplies to the conflict zones.  

Before August 8 there were two conflict zones on the territory of Georgia, which were recognized as such by the decisions of UN and OSCE. Moreover, everybody was ready to settle these conflicts in frames of respecting Georgia’s territorial integrity. By the way, President Medvedev told Saakashvili about it during their meeting in St. Petersburg on June 6 [2008]. As a result of that meeting, they agreed to move ahead towards the resolution. In particular, they agreed that Tbilisi would sign agreements with Tskhinvali and Sokhumi on non-use of force.

All these issues were discussed, but in mid-July the Georgian side demonstrated its incapability to negotiate and simply stopped to answer to our appeals. Then South Ossetia was attacked. Number and quality of armament used by Georgia confirm that it was not a police operation, but it was a real military operation, which took a shape of an aggression.

We are concerned about the fact that military rhetoric does not quiet down in Tbilisi. There are serious grounds to suspect that new provocations with use of force are being prepared. It is deplorable that against this background some of Tbilisi’s friends are still engaged in arming Saakashvili’s regime.”

Monday, April 06, 2009

Obama on missile defence

"As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defence system that is cost-effective and proven."

President Barack Obama, April 5, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Halonen against apology to Estonia

Postimees reported on March 26 that Finland's President Tarja Halonen has said she is opposed to the issuing of a public apology for the negative attitude taken by the Finnish government to Estonia's bid for independence in 1991. Jutta Zilliacus, a former Swedish People's party MP, had been quoted as telling the regional daily Aamulehti that Mauno Koivisto, who was Finland's president in 1982-94, should apologize for his behaviour and statements on the issue at the time. Koivisto, a Social Democrat, has refused to do so. There is more from Newsroom Finland here.

See also in this blog: Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch - 2

Putin-Jugend in Helsinki

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Defining moment

Could it be that the issue of Russia's illegal occupation of parts of Georgian territory is going to rest at the basis of the U.S. administration's new Russia policy?  As NATO heads meet in Strasbourg, on Civil Georgia today we read that

The U.S. and Russian Presidents said a joint statement that was released after their meeting in London on April 1 that “significant differences” remained between the two countries on the August war.

“Although we disagree about the causes and sequence of the military actions of last August, we agreed that we must continue efforts toward a peaceful and lasting solution to the unstable situation today,” the statement reads. “Bearing in mind that significant differences remain between us, we nonetheless stress the importance of last year’s six-point accord of August 12, the September 8 agreement, and other relevant agreements, and pursuing effective cooperation in the Geneva discussions to bring stability to the region.”

President Saakashvili welcomed the statement and said: “I am very pleased that one of the major issues on which Obama and Medvedev seriously disagreed yesterday during the meeting, and which is on the top of the list of priorities, is Georgia and the issue of occupation of Georgia.” He also said that after Obama-Medvedev meeting “any further Russian military adventures against Georgia” was ruled out.

Meanwhile, the Georgian Daily reports that
Placing all responsibility for last year’s Russian-Georgian war on his Georgian counterpart, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev declared on the sidelines of the G20 summit in London on April 2 that he will never talk to Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgian and Russian news sources said.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Wrong Reset Option?

On the issue of arms control, Jamestown's Pavel Felgenhauer writes that

Washington seems to have chosen a potentially self-defeating "Cold War style" policy in order to reset its relations with Moscow. A high-level international diplomatic effort to prevent a possible renewal of conflict in Georgia in the coming months might be more appropriate - addressing a present real threat.

On the other hand, Georgia's President Saakashvili, speaking today, appears almost sanguine:

So we have very firm support from the U.S. administration. You know that the U.S. general [James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] visited Georgia two days ago and that we are moving to a new stage of strategic partnership, which means completely new level of [cooperation] and in fact [means] launch of creation of new Georgian army.”

“We have no other alternative,” he continued. “Georgia needs strong allies; Georgia needs further development and Georgia needs to act hand in hand with our friends to rule out problems.”

In this situation, especially after yesterday’s meeting in London [between the Russian and U.S. Presidents], I practically rule out any further Russian military adventures against Georgia. And on the other hand of course, Georgia will not be happy until the de-occupation of Georgia and until the last invader soldier does not leave the territory of Georgia.”

England and Israel

In the New Republic, Howard Jacobson writes about English attitudes towards Israel. His conclusions are not positive ones.

(Via Harry's Place)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Russian newspaper worker beaten to death

According to this AP news report

The editor of a suburban Moscow newspaper that has criticized local authorities says its page designer has been beaten to death.

Anatoly Yurov of the newspaper Grazhdanskoye Soglasiye (Civil Concord) says Sergei Protazanov was beaten on Saturday, and died Monday after being discharged from the hospital.

Yurov said Wednesday that Protazanov was compiling an issue including reports on alleged falsifications in mayoral elections in the Khimki suburb.

Police refused to comment to The Associated Press, but the state RIA-Novosti agency cited police as denying Protazanov was beaten and saying he died from an unidentified toxic substance.

Novaya Gazeta's report says that the attackers removed the victim's internal organs.