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NEWS  / SOUTH OSSETIA OBZOR
11.09.2008


South Ossetia Obzor
Issues Surrounding the Caucasus Conflict 
Emphasis on Russia and Russia's Role
Events up to September 10th, 2008

Georgia, with Abkahzia and South Ossetia PictureThe following resource is meant to give readers an overview of recent events and issues surrounding the regional conflict that is now a world event. The selected stories below are but a tiny fraction of the media generated by the event. They have been selected to provide insight into issues that we feel have not been widely reported on in the West. For  a much more expansive collection of articles, see those compiled by the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies. For more obzori (news reviews) on other issues, see the newsletter for this corresponding month.

For more commentary and analysis of foreign policies post August 8th, see our Foreign Policy Obzor

To receive the free monthly newsletter and obzori by email, simply sign up.

Public Meetings in America
on the subject of the Caucasus conflict

American Enterprise Institute (August 13)
A panel discussion with AEI staff and US military experts.

Brookings (August 14)
Several Western scholars speak on the conflict.

Heritage Foundation (August 18)
Speakers include Georgian government officials and US academics from Johns Hopkins the US Army War College.

Atlantic Council (August 19)
"An all star panel of Georgian and American diplomatic thinkers"

 

Life on the Ground
Georgian, Russian, and Ossetian lives in the conflict zone

"There's No Reason For Us To Be Fighting!"
Alan Tskhurbayev was able to travel from the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali to Gori on August 17 and spoke to some of the city's increasingly desperate residents -- Georgians, Ossetians, and Russians among them.

UN Says 100,000 Uprooted By Conflict In Georgia
The first United Nations flight carrying humanitarian aid since fighting broke out in South Ossetia on Thursday arrived in Tiblisi, Georgia today.

South Ossetia at War with Marauders
A new battle has been launched in South Ossetia, this time against the marauders. The authorities announced two pillagers were shot in Java.

Georgia refugees appear free to return but fearful
Traffic moved freely through a Russian checkpoint on Sunday, but crowds of refugees remained camped nearby, preferring hot tents and filthy toilets to the violence they fear awaits them at home.

Tbilisi's ethnic Russians face uncertain future
They are 21st century barbarians, thugs, thieves, fascist hordes bent on killing, sacking Georgian cities, burning treasured forests, humiliating and crushing a proud people. Such is the picture of Russians painted by Georgia's leaders.

South Ossetians happily loot village in Georgia
Scenes of grotesque desolation mark this village in Georgia, yet it is a popular destination for at least one group: Looters in trucks and cars are still coming to take whatever they can find.

For S. Ossetians, Bitterness After Attacks
Residents of Separatist Zone Describe Georgian Assault That Destroyed a Swath of Their Capital.

In S. Ossetia, Opposition To Georgia Remains
The people of the breakaway region of South Ossetia say they will never rejoin Georgia. Many of them say they want independence, or even union with Russia.

South Ossetians describe fleeing from the fighting
Marina Dudayeva, a woman in her early 20s, fled from Tskhinvali wearing only her bed clothes and a pair of plastic slippers.

Bombing of Georgia town tears into family's heart
Each crunching step she took on the broken glass covering her floor was a bitter reminder of Nana Mamukashvili's son, dead at 21 from a Russian warplane attack.

Destruction In Gori
Koba Liklikadze was in the Georgian town of Gori, about 30 kilometers from the border of South Ossetia, as Russian bombs fell on civilian districts.

 

South Ossetia
Who are they and what do they want?

South Ossetia
A fairly extensive history and description of the region from Wikipedia.

Independent at Last
Ludwig Chibirov, former president of South Ossetia, shares his views on Russian recognition.

Georgian Tanks VS. Ossetian Teenagers
When Georgian forces moved into the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7, they underestimated the Ossetians' determination to resist them.

Barriers That Are Steep and Linguistic
Some 40 indigenous tongues are spoken in the region — more than any other spot in the world aside from Papua New Guinea and parts of the Amazon

Why does South Ossetia want independence?
South Ossetians say they deserve independence. Georgians say South Ossetia is part of their country.

Ossetian loyalty to Russia goes back as far as 1801
When Georgia began to seek independence from the Soviet Union, the leadership of South Ossetia, fearing cultural assimilation, began a campaign to become part of the Russian Federation.

No Ossetian Negotiation without Russia
The President of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity has stated that the republic will not negotiate with Georgia without the participation of Russia.

South Ossetia Reiterated Desire for Being Annexed by Russia
Eduard Kokoity, who is the president of this unrecognized and breakaway province of Georgia, made the respective statement.

 

Casualties and Displaced Persons
Numbers differ based on their source

133 deaths confirmed in attack on South Ossetia
The Russian Prosecutor General's investigative committee has been able to document the deaths of only 133 civilians, although the leadership of the unrecognized republic reported 1492 deaths.

South Ossetia says 1,692 killed in Georgia attack: reports
"We have information of 1,692 dead and 1,500 injured as a result of the Georgian aggression."

Reuters: FACTBOX: Casualty tolls in Caucasus conflict
Unofficial reports of casualties in South Ossetia and Georgia put the number of dead between 40 and about 2,000 since fighting erupted late on Thursday.

Official Georgian Interim Report on Number of Casualties
The officially registered number of Georgian soldiers killed in the conflict is 156, as of September 3. The number of civilians killed is 69.

South Ossetia: Data on Casualties, Displaced
Human Rights Watch attempted to gather statistics through interviews and visits to hospitals.

Russia Receives Refugees from South Ossetia
Russia has received more than 30,000 refugees from South Ossetia in the last couple of days.

 

Abkhazia
Georgia's second front

Abkhazia's troops seized the Upper Kodori
The main war theatre was moved to Abkhazia yesterday. As Russia announced a halt to the operation of the coercion of Georgia into peace, the Abkhaz forces took almost full control of the Upper Kodori.

Abkhazia looks to seal diplomatic ties with Russia within week
Abkhazia is currently drafting the treaty and a host of other documents necessary to establish formal diplomatic relations and to open embassies.

Citizens of Abkhazia Strive to Shape Sovereign Nation
The only way into Abkhazia is by United Nations airlift. We were entering a country that does not officially exist. Permission first had to come from the Abkhaz, who are in de facto control. They even issued us visas.

Stalin's Favorite Retreat, War-Ravaged Abkhazia, Lures Tourists
Abkhazia, on the edge of the Black Sea, northeast of Georgia, has palm trees, subtropical summers and a stunning coastline.

Abkhaz monks, like rebels, want freedom from Georgia
The balance of power in Abkhazia is clear to anyone looking out to sea from the Novy Afon monastery.

 

Who's To Blame?
A few points of the heated debate

Chronologies of the Caucasus Conflict
One of the most important aspects to understanding any historical event is understanding the chronology that underlies it.

 

Blame Russia?

The Russian-Georgian War Was Preplanned in Moscow
Before using arms, Moscow issued ominous threats.

Scene At Russia-Georgia Border Hinted At Scripted Affair
Speaking to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Tsarnayev, a resident of the Chechen capital, Grozny, said the Moscow-based reporters had been sent from various Russian media outlets days earlier, and were preparing to cover something big.

Tbilisi Attacked Tskhinvali on August 7, But War Started Earlier
"So Georgia did not launch a war. Georgia was drawn into one. It's a peace-loving country."

How the Georgian Conflict Really Started
'Anybody who thinks that Moscow didn't plan this invasion, that we in Georgia caused it gratuitously, is severely mistaken."

 

Blame Georgia?

Georgia started conflict in S. Ossetia
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said Thursday "there is no doubt" that Georgia provoked the clash.

You Can Call Me "Misha."
How naiveté and an erratic streak may have doomed Saakashvili.

Russia's first Georgia move legitimate: U.S. envoy
U.S officials have strongly criticsed Moscow's subsequent action but have not focused on the initial chain of events that triggered the conflict between Russian and U.S.-ally Georgia.

 

Blame the US?

Putin Asserts Link Between U.S. Election and Georgia War
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he had reason to think U.S. personnel were in the combat zone during the recent war in Georgia.

U.S. Military Instructors Command Hirelings in Georgia
Thousands of mercenaries are fighting for Georgia in this burning conflict with South Ossetia. They are commanded by the U.S. military instructors, RIA Novosti reported.

'Don't do it', U.S. told Georgia on eve of assault
The United States warned Georgia against trying to retake rebel South Ossetia by force, the U.S. envoy to NATO said on Thursday.

American says he's a teacher, not a US agent
Russian officials say Michael Lee White was a U.S. agent involved in the recent fighting between their troops and Georgia. They claim to have found the Army veteran's passport in the country.

 

None/All/Some of the Above?

Who's To Blame In South Ossetia?
Both sides [Georgia and South Ossetia] have reason to be interested in maintaining the tensions.

Russia-Georgia conflict: Why both sides have valid points.
As Russia's flash war with Georgia winds down, two distinct – and contradictory – stories about what happened and why are taking shape.

Nasty Nationalism
Romantic nationalism has been a curse in many countries in the past century, notably in 1990s Serbia. Now, Georgia pays the price.

 

Prelude to War
Events before the arrival of Russian regular troops

Georgia Recalls Its Ambassador
Georgian authorities have decided to recall the Georgian ambassador from Russia in response to events in the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflict zones.

South Ossetia Declares Nation-Wide Mobilization
Georgia’s breakaway province South Ossetia has declared the nation-wide mobilization following the attack on Tskhinvali at night from July 3 to 4. The death-toll is two persons.

Georgia Leads in Military Costs Growth
One of the statements that has become very popular in Russia in the wake of the five-day war for South Ossetia is "the 30-fold increase in Georgia's military budget."

Georgia Pledged to Hit Russia’s Jets
In Tbilisi, they pledge to hit Russia’s jets should Georgia’s air be violated.

Abkhazia rejects German peace plan
Rebels in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia have rejected the German Foreign Minister's peace deal. It is also not known whether Russia will support the plan.

Georgians, Russians Exchange Angry Words At Security Council Debate
Georgian and Russian diplomats traded harsh words at a UN Security Council session amid escalating tension over Georgia's Moscow-backed breakaway regions.

Moscow and Tbilisi Trade Exercises
Russia begins Caucasus 2008, large-scale military exercises, today, with 8000 soldiers and 700 pieces of military hardware working out a scenario of military action in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia Warns Georgia of "Wide-Scale" Fight in Ossetia
Georgian forces "sharply aggravated" the situation in South Ossetia by shelling residential areas of the capital Tskhinvali at the weekend, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its Web site yesterday.

 

US Actions Before Aug 8th

U.S. Criticizes Russia Over Violation of Georgia's Airspace
The United States on Monday voiced its concern over Russia's violation of Georgian airspace by sending military aircraft over the rebellious Georgian region of South Ossetia.

No Rich Oligarchs in the USA Buying up Abkhazian Beaches
Matthew J. Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs told Kommersant correspondent Alexander Gabuev why Washington opposes Russia’s monopoly on the negotiation process.

Russia counts on U.S. help in Georgia- S.Ossetia standoff
Russia counts on the United States to exert a positive influence on Georgia following the latest surge in violence in the breakaway province of South Ossetia, a Russian diplomat said on Monday.

 

Information Warfare
Russian Wins Militarily, Loses Diplomatically 

The CNN Effect: Georgia Schools Russia in Information Warfare
An irreverent (i.e. with swear words) but highly informative overview of Russia's and Georgia's efforts in information warfare.

Is CNN Getting Kicked Out of Russia?
About two weeks ago, Putin gave the network an exclusive 30-minute interview. And you know what happened? Nothing. It was never allowed to air.

Blogging For Truth. Russian war bloggers tell¬and show¬what they saw at the front
The Russian blogosphere, meanwhile, was abuzz with speculation over the Tskhinvali charges: Had the city really been leveled? How many people had really died?

Georgia cuts access to Russian websites, TV news
Georgia's Interior Ministry said the action was not anti-democratic, but Russian broadcasts could not be allowed to "scare our population".

Kremlin media machine whips up war fever
Television images like those of Georgia's president nervously chewing his tie and terrified civilians welcoming Russian tanks are being served up in large spoonfuls to Russian viewers these days.

Medvedev takes on the West in media blitz
President Dmitry Medvedev is storming onto the world stage with a major Western media blitz, taking Russia 's case on Georgia directly to the people and hoping to win hearts and minds in the process.

A Media Drive to Groom Georgia's Image
The Georgian authorities are going to pick a new consultancy based in Paris in coming weeks to help beef up its communication strategy in Europe.

Recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia sundered unity of the Russian media
"Reaction of the media plainly shows that we have a whole generation of the intellectual and ruling elite in Russia these days whose representatives are not patriots at all."

South Ossetia Sinks Into The Spin Zone
Even as the fighting between Russia and Georgia has raged in South Ossetia and other parts of Georgia, a fierce -- if uneven -- media battle has also unfolded.

Watchdog: 'Fantastic Lies' Dominate Russian War Coverage
Oleg Panfilov, the director of the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations in Moscow, is currently in Tbilisi. Panfilov spoke to Dmitry Volchek of RFE/RL's Russian Service about the difficulties of reporting the conflict both inside and outside Georgia.

War in South Ossetia Won the Prime-Time
According to the yesterday's report of TNS Gallup Media, the attention of the better part of Russia's TV viewers has been drawn to the news programs since Friday.

CNN blamed for using misleading war video
Gori was said to be about to fall under the control of the Russian army but the cameraman says the video was actually shot in Tskhinvali, which had been flattened by Georgian shelling.

Biased broadcast? Moscow accuses U.S. TV of gagging victims' stories
A 12 year old girl and her aunt were describing how Russian soldiers saved them from the Georgian attack – but were bizarrely cut off after just two minutes.

 

Reaction of East and Central Asia 
Some "understand," none directly support 

Kiev threatens to ban Russian Black Sea Fleet from getting back to the Ukrainian base
Ukraine is practically the only CIS country to openly back Georgia demanding that Russia immediately withdraw its troops from the territory of Georgia.

Former Soviet Sphere Shocked Into Silence By Conflict In Georgia
CIS countries face a difficult choice in formulating their response to the Russian-Georgian conflict.

Medvedev Thanked Shanghai Nations for Understanding
The RF President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed gratitude to his colleagues in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for understanding and objective evaluation of peacekeeping efforts of Russia.

Ukraine Offers Peacekeepers to Georgia
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko declared that Ukraine is ready to send the peacekeepers contingent to Georgia under the international mandate for conflict settlement in South Ossetia.

Dushanbe Declaration of Heads of SCO Member States
Official statement from the SCO on issues surrounding current events.

Despite Show Of Unity, Georgian Leader's Future Unclear
Leaders from Georgia, Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania speak to thousands in the Georgia capital on August 12.

Ukraine Shines Its Weapons on Russia
For the first time in seven years, military hardware rattled down Kreshchatik, Kiev's main street.

 

Opposition and Support in Russia 
Public opinion, major political parties united 

Opposition Leaders Warn That Russia Faces International Isolation
Leading members of Russia's marginalized liberal opposition have issued a statement criticizing the Russian government's recognition of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Cracks in Putin's Kingdom
Serious voices in Russia are doubting his judgment on Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Protest at U.S., Georgian Embassies
Protests continued yesterday in front of the Georgian and U.S. embassies in Moscow. Pro-Kremlin youth from the Nashi (Ours) and Young Russia movements and the Communist opposition.

All Parties behind the Leaders
The parliamentary parties fully support Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's line in the Russian-Georgian conflict.

Almost 60 per cent of Russians support intervention in S Ossetia
More than a quarter (27 per cent) of those surveyed emphasize that Russia should have intervened immediately in the conflict on the side of South Ossetia specifically.

Some 40% of Russians favor S. Ossetia's accession to Russia
The majority of Russians (80%) believe the breakaway republic of South Ossetia will never be a part of Georgia again.

 

Financial Consequences 
Investors pull out, economic "punishment" considered

Russia's Oligarchs May Face a Georgian Chill
The outbreak of war… suggests that in the future the compact between big business and big government in Russia will no longer be looked upon so benignly.

Blow dealt to prospect of oil pipeline security
The force of Russia's attack against Georgia this weekend sends a strong signal that Moscow is determined not to relinquish control over the oil-rich Caspian region.

Market Forces Will Limit Russian Expansionism
Capital flight may prove the most effective check on Russian aggression.

Uneasy reliance on Russia likely to persist
The American and British governments have this week been holding out hopes of the European Union curbing its reliance on Russian gas.

Russia should break with some WTO pacts
'Russia intends to inform various WTO partners of its withdrawal from accords that contradict its interests,' the reports quoted First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov as saying, to which Putin replied: 'That is reasonable.'

The Russian power play on oil, natural gas reserves
Unlike during the Cold War, when the US nuclear arsenal served as a check on Russia's nuclear arsenal, today there is no such check on Russian energy dominance.

How Not To Punish Moscow
Using economics as a weapon against Russia poses risks to the global economic system itself.

Facing West's 'consequences', Russia holds cards of its own
"The energy card is clearly a big one to play."

 

Western Political and Military Events 
America, EU, OSCE, and NATO reactions

Statements by Bush, McCain, and Obama
How will this and the next administration view Russia and handle the reprecussions of events now unfolding? SRAS has gathered together several quotes that help shed light on this question.

EU to keep peace in S. Ossetia, Abkhazia, Minister says
By sending its observers to zones adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the European Union will give Georgia a clear signal that it will now be responsible, along with the OSCE and the UN, for ensuring security in the disputed republics, Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov told journalists today.

Europarliament Condemns Russia
While acknowledging that Georgia began the military activities in South Ossetia, it criticized Russia's "disproportionate" response.

South Ossetians must decide their fate themselves - OSCE
The political fate of Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia must be decided by South Ossetians themselves, Europe's main security and human rights watchdog said on Sunday.

NATO ships spotted near the Georgian coast
Yesterday Russia's military warned of the possibility of NATO ships maneuvers in the Black Sea.

Cheney Calls for Ukraine Unity to Meet Threats, Backs NATO Bid
Yushchenko, reassured a group of ambassadors that Ukraine's move toward NATO and the EU will continue regardless of who wins the next election.

Russian Nuclear Pact Stalls
Tensions Prompt U.S. to Reconsider Proliferation Agreement.

Obama, Biden Offer Support, Georgian Delegation Says in Denver
Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden offered support for international efforts to secure Georgia's sovereignty in separate meetings in Denver yesterday with the country's leaders, the delegation said.

U.S. military aircraft bring 800 Georgian troops home from Iraq
U.S. military aircraft have flown 800 Georgian troops and a number of armored vehicles back home from Iraq amid an armed conflict in breakaway South Ossetia, a senior Russian military official said on Monday.

Five Jets of U.S. Air Force Landed in Tbilisi
Five warplanes of the U.S. Air Force landed in Tbilisi International Airport, the RF General Staff Deputy Chief General-Colonel Anatoly Nogovitsyn told reporters. "I would like to know what cargo they have delivered, military or humanitarian," the general said.

U.S. Cancelled Another Joint Exercise with Russia
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced August 14 the refusal of the United States to take part in the FRUKUS-2008 naval exercise, France Presse reported.

US sends 3rd ship to Georgia, plans $1B in aid
The multiyear proposal calls for spending about half of the total in the administration's remaining five months in office.

 

Russian Political and Military Events 
Politicians, diplomats, and others react

Statements by Putin, Medvedev, and Others
What are the arguments of Russian leaders for thier arguments? Several official statments and interviews are gathered here.

Revises 2008 NATO Cooperation Plan
Russia is revising its 2008 plan for the military cooperation with NATO, Interfax reported Wednesday with reference to unnamed but well-informed source with the military and diplomatic community of Moscow.

Russia says to inspect cargo at Georgian port
Russian forces will carry out regular inspections of cargo at Georgia's economically vital Black Sea port of Poti, a senior Russian defense official said on Monday.

Russian threat to Nato supply route in Afghanistan
Russia played a trump card in its strategic poker game with the West yesterday by threatening to suspend an agreement allowing Nato to take supplies and equipment to Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia.

Russia links its help on Iran to Georgia row
Western nations will have to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions without Russia's help if they refuse to cooperate with Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

Russian troops dismantle west Georgia checkpoints
Russian soldiers were dismantling checkpoints in western Georgia on Wednesday, a Georgian official and a Reuters witness said.

Russia wants arms embargo on Georgia
Washington quickly dismissed the Russian draft resolution as a ploy to divert attention from the fact Moscow had yet to pull out of Georgian territory outside two breakaway regions

Russia plans 7,600 force in Georgia rebel regions
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said troops would stay in South Ossetia and Abkhazia for a long time to prevent any "repeat of Georgian aggression."

Russia's General Staff Reported Georgian Trophies
Russia's military captured big numbers of fire-arms at Georgian military base in Senaki, RIA Novosti reported with reference to the RF General Staff Deputy Chief Anatoly Nogovitsyn.

S. Ossetia Receives Budget Recognition
The unrecognized republic of South Ossetia has been de facto included in the budget system of the Russian Federation as part of North Ossetia.

Russia Arrests Army Officer for Treason
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) announced yesterday the detention of Russia's Army officer Mikhail Khachidze in the Stavropol region.

BP Said Russia's Jets Didn't Attack Oil Pipeline in Georgia
Spokesman of British Petroleum has refuted the allegation of Georgia about Russia's air attacks on the oil pipeline.

Russia Expects Resolution Of Differences In Interpretation Of Medvedev- Sarkozy Plan
Russia believes that the differences between Russia and the EU are largely caused by the differences in the interpretation of the peace treaty signed by the presidents of Russia and France.

Russia accuses Georgia of failing to pull back troops
"Georgian troops should have returned to their positions. Unfortunately, we have not observed that," Andrei Nesterenko said. "Instead, we have been witnessing an increase in activity to redeploy and equip Georgian troops."

Russia's Warships Arrived in Abkhazia
The warships of Russia arrived in Abkhazia's Sukhumi port of the Black Sea.

Russia Blocks UN Georgia Resolution
Russia refused to support a resolution proposed by France because it mentioned the principle of Georgian territorial integrity.

 

Georgian Political and Military Events 
Politicians, diplomats, and others react

Statements by Saakashvilli; Debate with Gorbachev
Saakashvilli has been featured on CNN several times and has issued many statements to the Western press.

Russian-Georgian Visa Ties Remain
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's declaration that he was severing relations with Russia has proven to be less than accurate. Only a few days later, Tbilisi has returned to its usual visa procedures for Russia.

Million Georgians Rally Against Russian 'Aggression'
Countrywide, police said over 1 million people took part in what authorities said was a show of unity after Russia this month crushed a Georgian bid to retake breakaway South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists.

Georgia Pulled Out of Agreements on Ossetian Conflict Settlement
Georgia has unilaterally pulled out of agreements on settlement of the conflict in South Ossetia, News Georgia reported.

Government Formally Scraps Russian Peacekeeping
Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze signed a decree formally terminating Russian peacekeeping operations in Georgia, the government said in a statement on Friday.



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