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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.

141 comments

  • Alvin

    I agree. Gorrgia should be crushed as they are the violators and aggressors in this situation. I support Russia to bomb Georgia till they agree to disarm.

  • Angela

    Don’t let the nationalists in Armenia get loud on Javakheti! That’s my first fear for now. Another closed border and even a more fragmented region will be a total desaster.

  • I would have thought that round about now is when we should start bombarding the White House, Downing Street, the Elysee Palace and the Chancellery with emails asking them to instruct their putative NATO allies in Georgia to withdraw their troops to allow a peacekeeping operation restore order under the leadership of the Russians but with participation from neutrals like, say, Finalnd, Ireland, India etc. While we’re all points scoring, people are dying.

    You can get the South Ossetian viewpoint of the invasion here

  • Snakes

    Actually Georgia has attacked on southern осетию at 12 o’clock in the morning on August, 8th. For a night Hailstones and тяжолой artillery the capital southern осетии has been completely destroyed by installations (and it is women, children, old men).
    The Georgian military men finished the wounded peace inhabitants and Russian peacemakers.

  • Alvin

    I hope the Russians inflict heavy losses on Georgia to teach them a lesson not to use force on civilians. Go Russia Go!

  • Georgia broke the UN mandate by breaking the ceasefire and Russian peacekeepers have the right to restore peace. The western press has done a bad job of telling this story, meaning that we all will be subjected to Russian officials like Dmitrii Rogozin and Russia Today compensating for this with stepped-up propaganda. Therefore, it would be wise to wait until the real facts emerge.

    Natalya — This conflict is definitely connected with Kosovo. If it is true that Russia bombed Poti port and killed Georgian civilians, the Russians will turn around and say to NATO “Look what you did to civilians in Kosovo.” But isn’t it convenient that Russia has given South Ossetians passports, and then claim that they are protecting “their” citizens?

    Lavrov attacked Georgian claims that Russia is after other territories — the Baltics, Transdnistria and Ukraine. While Russia couldn’t make claims on EU/NATO territory, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov keeps claiming that Ukrainian Crimea is Russian territory.
    Because of this, Russia will ultimately find it difficult to win the propaganda war.

  • I’ll grant Russia Today is pretty propagandistic. So much so that I really don’t know who to believe about how this all started.

    I’m against whoever started it and for whatever the South Ossetians want (join Russia? whatever).

    By the way, the passport thing, that’s nothing new, but one (great?) American President, Stephen Grover Cleveland, spoke about it openly in 1896.

    “Besides this large pecuniary stake in the fortunes of Cuba, the United States finds itself inextricably involved in the present contest in other ways, both vexatious and costly. Many Cubans reside in this country and indirectly promote the insurrection through the press, by public meetings, by the purchase and shipment of arms, by the raising of funds, and by other means, which the spirit of our institutions and the tenor of our laws do not permit to be made the subject of criminal prosecutions. Some of them, though Cubans at heart and in all their feelings and interests, have taken out papers as naturalized citizens of the United States, a proceeding resorted to with a view to possible protection by this government and not unnaturally regarded with much indignation by the country of their origin.”

  • UnionJack

    Saakashvili is on the run!!
    His staffers say he’s already left Georgia and is presently on the way to Ankara.
    And there is preparing in full swing for evacuation of the Georgian military headquarters and command posts from the capital city of Tbilisi and Kutaisi. In Gori there’s no more any command post of Georgian troops. It has been located in some mountain area, some witnesses say in particular.

  • hidden

    Georgia started this war by killing their own and russian peacekeepers in Ossetia. Russia just called their army because russian have been killed. They are not entering Georgia’s territory. Russia is for Ossetia’s independence. Georgia stopped translating russian channels and blocked all russian web pages. People are being disinformated. Georgia started this war. Georgia even started to kill russian peacekeepers today, when they tried to get out from ossetia to safe zone ossetia’s people.

  • Oleg

    People of the world. You deceive! World mass media conduct propagation of a false information. Russia DID NOT ATTACK Georgia! 07.08.2008 at 22:00 Georgia has attacked South Ossetia. At 3:30 08.08.2008 tanks of the Georgian armies have entered into city Tskhinvali. Artillery bombardment all the day long proceeded, fights with use of tanks and heavy combat material, both against ossetic armies, and against peace inhabitants were conducted. 1400 civil people already were lost. The Russian peacemakers have arrived to South Ossetia in the evening 08.08.2008 for settlement of the conflict and prompting of the world in republic and protection of the Russian citizens living on territory of South Ossetia. Georgia has attacked South Ossetia on eve of Olympiad, it is top of cruelty and cynicism. Proofs and video-materials look on : http://www.1tvrus.com/ , http://www.1tv.ru/owa/win/ort6_main.main , http://www.rian.ru/ , http://www.vesti.ru/news , http://news.ntv.ru/ , http://www.ren-tv.com/ , http://www.newsru.com/ .We shall tell is not present to WAR!!!

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