Georgia: South Ossetia Update

See Global Voices special coverage page on the South Ossetia crisis.

With local and international media outlets reporting that fighting is spilling over into Georgia proper, the latest military confrontation with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia looks increasingly like war. Wu Wei reports from Tbilisi that the Vaziani military base just outside the Georgian capital has been bombed. The signs look very ominous indeed.

Reports say Russians have damaged the runway at the Marneuli airport near Tbilisi.

We are wondering what the Georgian airforce is doing.

Nobody has declared war yet, and the Russians are hedging, but when you put it all together, it looks pretty much like it.

It seems some dignitaries are on their way, like President Adamkas from Lithuania. They better land quick.

The same blog says that Embassies are now preparing for the possibility that their citizens will have to be evacuated. However, it is not yet certain whether such a move will be necessary.

It seems in case of an evacuation it will be through Armenia. Our Greek has been told the same. This seems to be a plan agreed at a meeting of all the embassies earlier in the week.

But nobody is expecting this to be necessary. I'm leaving for Lithuania next Thursday anyway, for a long weekend.

A new meeting of diplomats has been called this afternoon which everybody but the Russians have gone to.

A Fistful of Euros examines the situation from Georgia, but also questions whether Russia will risk war over South Ossetia. It also wonders whether Tbilisi received tacit approval for military operations from the U.S. and Europe.

First, what will Russia’s leadership do? It was willing to have Russian planes violate Georgian airspace last week during the escalation, and reports have it that one bomb each fell near the Georgian cities of Gori and Kartveli. On the other hand, this looks like a gesture — if the Russians wanted to have bombs fall on Gori and Kartveli, they jolly well would have. Escalation by the Russian side is of course possible, but Saakashvili’s government has bet that Russia won’t be all that put out about 70,000 South Ossetians. The ruble and the Russian stock market, however, both had big drops today, apparently on the theory that you never know about escalation.

Second, what will the Americans and EU do? A senior State Department figure was here in Tbilisi last week, and I would expect that the Georgian side at least hinted very broadly about what was up. He would have to deny that, of course, in the way of these things. We can assume that the Americans did not warn them off. The German foreign minister was also here, with a plan for Abkhazia. It’s slightly less likely that he was clued in, but the topic of his visit points to the next item on the reintegration agenda.

The same blog also reports that while Russian jets have bombed targets close to the Georgian capital, there has only been sporadic outages in terms of electricity, Internet access and cell phone communication. Meanwhile, other blogs, such as one from Reuters, examine the possibility that Georgian military action is directly related to Kosovo.

Is Kosovo to blame for the fighting in South Ossetia?

When the Serbian province seceded from Belgrade in February, South Ossetia was quick to reassert its own claim to international recognition.

As a spokeswoman for separatist leader Eduard Kokoity told Reuters at the time: “The Kosovo precedent has driven us to more actively seek our rights.”

Those remarks will not have gone unheard in Tblisi and could well have added some urgency to Georgia’s desire to impose its rule over breakaway South Ossetia.

the will to exist also comes to the same conclusion, but says the situation is not the same.

South Ossetia is another Kosovo in the works. 98-99% of Ossetians want independence if you believe the results of their referendum. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of the world. Independence for South Ossetia is no more likely than say, Vermont seceding from the United States. Either Georgia or Russia will dominate the territory for the foreseeable future.

Writing on Outside the Beltway, James Joyner again draws parallels with Kosovo and is concerned about the situation, wondering if NATO will have no choice but to intervene.

This is still a holdover from the breakup of the Soviet Union. South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia in the early 1990s and has de facto sovereignty over large parts of its territory. While neither Georgia nor the international community recognizes the secession as legitimate, Russia has been sympathetic.

Tensions came to a head with Kosovo’s declaration of independence and the push to offer Georgia a membership action plan and eventual inclusion into NATO. Russia immediately began throwing its weight around in both South Ossetia and another breakaway province, Abkhazia. It appears that Russia is now making its play.

Given that NATO all but promised Georgia eventual membership at its Bucharest summit mere months ago, ignoring Russia’s move here is unthinkable.


This is getting ugly, fast.


  • Ptriot

    Whyat a usless place

  • I’ve been watching the English-language 24 hour news station Russia Today.

    Their chiron now, and repeatedly for the last few hours, declades “WAR IS ON”

    Their American-born “reporter” Peter Lavelle, after airing Saakashvili saying targets outside S. Ossetia had been bombed, said he’d never heard such “bald-faced lies” from any national leader ever. He claimed CNN was just a propaganda station. I’ll concede that about CNN is he acknowledges that Russia Today is even more of one!

    Russia Today is publishing any report coming from the South Ossetian leader, including new body counts (1400 most recent).

    I love Russia Today, because if something happens in the Slavic world, that is where I can go to get the “official” other side. It was useful, for example, during the riots in Serbia and Kosovo secession.

  • USA judgment clouded again due to foreign energy dependence

    please digg:

  • WARNING!!!

    Популярный канал новостей USA сообщил о нападении Грузии на Осетию лишь спустя несколько часов после этого. При этом построил ленту новостей так, как будто это Российская сторона начала активные военные действия против Грузии. На самом деле в 04.00 ночи 08.08.08 г. Грузия начала обстерл Осетинской территории при помощи артиллерийского комплекса “Град”(этот же канал новостей показал как будто это Россия обстреливает Грузинскую территорию). Также нападению со стороны Грузинских войск подверглись миротворцы как на территории Грузии, так и на территории Осектии. В поддержку своих граждан и военных от нападком Грузин Россия ввела дополнительные военные силы на территорию Осетии. Также нередки сообщения о расстреле грузинскими военными раненых мирных жителях Грузии и представителей миротворцев России. Будтье внимательнее к тому, что говорят по Вашим канал – Вас обманывают. По возможности посмотрите Российские каналы новостей.
    P.S.: На 23.00 08.08.08 г. погибло примерно уже 1500 мирных жителей Осетии.

  • Russian Citizen

    South Ossetia situation was planned and implemented by USA, it is loud and clear. Georgia started this act to involve Russian troops in this conflict right at the time of Olympic games, this is clearly act of rot provocation and attempt of USA to make Russia look like aggressor in Chinese eyes. Don’t trust USA, dont’ trust Georgia. Russian troops are there to stop kills of Russian citizens – there are 90% of russian citizens in South Ossetia. So is Russia and aggressor? NO NO NO, Russia wants to stop bloodshed and keep peace.

  • UN unable to reach any deal tonight (not surprising) looks like this will drag on for a while.

    1,500 (+/-) reported dead. Georgians have shot down 5 Russian fighters (su-24’s I think). The fight is certainly on!

  • Hangulman

    What is so valuable in South Ossetia?

    Are the separatists in South Ossetia REAL separatists or are they like the leaders of HanChongRyon in South Korea? (People planted in the target country to stir up trouble and give a foreign government political reason to be aggressors)

    What is with the reports of the various armies using lethal force on civilians?

    What have the Georgians done to escalate the situation?

  • Natalya Taylor

    If you want an opinion from the opposite side of the barricades then here it is. This war in Ossetia is DIRECTLY connected with Kosovo. Kosovo was able to separate from Yugoslavia under NATO protection. Now NATO cannot allow for Ossetia to separate from Georgia because Georgia has been its ally.
    What BBC failed to mention is that Tskhinvali was bombed by Geirgian aviation and heavy artillery at 3 a.m. on August 8th. Now all of a sudden what Medvedev said doesn’t seem like such a nonesense. Russia is ready to recognize Ossetia a sovereign republic, NATO is not. The reason is pretty obvious. For if Russia ever joins NATO, the organization will lose its purpose. Most of Ossetians are Russian citizens. To protect its citizens from raids of Tbilisi Russia HAD to enter Ossetia.
    Now, consider this: according to data provided by Tskhinvali 1500 people have been killed in Ossetia. Only tens of them are soldiers.
    What appears even more blasphemous is that Georgia started the war without declaring it on the date of Olympic games opening. As long as NATO acts from the position of power, such incidents are going to persist.

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