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Georgia 2008 Daily Chronology

Sunday 31 August 2008

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the West will not be held to ransom by Moscow and vowed a "root and branch" review of relations between the European Union and Russia. Writing in the British weekly "The Observer," Brown sent a message to Russia: "If you want to be welcome at the top table of organizations" such as the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and World Trade Organization, "you must accept that with rights come responsibilities." Brown said he would argue at the September 1 EU summit in Brussels that Russia should accept Georgia's territorial integrity and withdraw its troops to the positions they occupied before the military action over South Ossetia. He also urged NATO to reevaluate its relationship with Russia and intensify its support to Georgia and other states that may face "Russian aggression."

Saturday 30 August 2008

Russian troops still control significantly more Georgian territory than they did a month ago and no one can answer the key question: How can the occupiers be forced to leave? But Georgian officials are openly gleeful over Moscow's diplomatic isolation, as its friends decline to join the Kremlin in recognizing the independence of two breakaway Georgian regions. In the longer term, Russia will surely succeed in creating internal political instability in Georgia.

Friday 29 August 2008

UNOSAT conducted satellite-based damage assessment for the affected villages from Kekhvi to Tskhinvali, South Ossetia, Georgia following the armed conflict between Georgian and Russian military forces, August 2008. Damaged buildings have been identified with WorldView-1 & Formosat-2 satellite imagery acquired on 19 August 2008. Affected buildings were classified either as destroyed or severely damaged by standard satellite image interpretation methods. Destroyed buildings have been defined either by the total collapse of the structure or when it was standing but with less than 50% of the roof still intact. Severely damaged buildings were defined as having visible structural damage to a portion of one wall, or where a section of the roof was damaged but with over 50% of the roof still intact. The estimated total number of affected buildings for the selected villages is approximately 1,050. Of this total 794 buildings have likely been destroyed and 256 buildings have likely been severely damaged. A further 5,372 buildings were identified as showing no visible damage in the available satellite imagery.

Recent satellite images released by the UN program UNOSAT confirm the widespread torching of ethnic Georgian villages inside South Ossetia, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. It said that that detailed analysis of the damage depicted in five ethnic Georgian villages surrounding Tskhinvali - Tamarasheni, Kekhvi, Kvemo Achabeti, Zemo Achabeti and Kurta - shows the destruction "was caused by intentional burning and not armed combat." "The high-resolution images of these villages show no impact craters from incoming shelling or rocket fire, or aerial bombardment," HRW said.

Russia's currency and stock market have suffered substantial losses since the outbreak of hostilities in Georgia three weeks ago. Russia's RTS Index of leading stocks fell more than six percent the day hostilities broke out in Georgia and reached their lowest point in nearly two years when President Dmitri Medvedev formally recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Bloomberg News reports the Russian ruble is headed for its biggest monthly decline against the U.S. dollar in more than nine years as investors reduce their Russian holdings. In addition, Russia's Central Bank says the country lost more than $16 billion in the week following the launch of military operations in Georgia on August 8. Financial observers attribute the loss to nervous investors pulling capital from Russia. Russian market has not had any influx of fresh capital for about six months. Analysts say Western concerns about investing in Russia could complicate Kremlin plans to modernize and diversify the country's economy.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Western nations will have to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions without Russia's help if they refuse to cooperate with Moscow. Asked in an interview with CNN if the Georgia row could hurt U.S.-Russian cooperation on Iran, Putin said: "If nobody wants to talk with us on these issues and cooperation with Russia is not needed, then for God's sake, do it yourself."

In recent years, the United States has been cultivating the rule of power rather than the rule of international law, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in an interview with CNN. "In essence, in recent years our American partners have been cultivating the rule of power, and not the rule of international law. When we tried to halt the resolution on the independence of Kosovo, nobody would listen to us. We said: don't do it, wait. You are placing us in a horrible situation in the Caucasus. What will we tell the ethnic minorities of the Caucasus who say: why is it that Kosovo can declare independence, and we can't? You are making us look like fools!" the Prime Minister said.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, Friday accused NATO of having in recent years "repeatedly and demonstratively" ignored both the United Nations and international law. He said NATO has no moral right to criticize Russian policies.

The rumors of Russia's intention to cut oil supplies to Europe via the Druzhba oil pipeline that have been spread by certain media sources, particularly by British ones, are "a fiction and a blatant provocation", said Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin. He noted that the Soviet Union always fulfilled its contract obligations regardless of the political situation even during the Cold War, and that Russia, as a reliable partner, observed the same principles.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez backed Russia's recognition of two breakaway regions of Georgia on August 29, making Venezuela only the second nation to support Moscow's stance. Russia's neighbor and close ally Belarus has expressed similar support for Moscow's decision to back the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after a brief war between Russia and Georgia this month.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry categorically denied on Friday that Ukrainian military experts are helping to rebuild Georgia's army communications network, damaged in a five-day conflict with Russia. Deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said on Thursday that a British non-governmental organization was training Georgian explosive experts, and Ukrainian specialists were helping install an army communications network in Georgia.

A Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed Friday that her office had been instructed to halt diplomatic ties with Russia immediately. The two officers working at the Georgian Embassy in Moscow have been told to leave Saturday. The move came less than 24 hours after Georgia's parliament voted 106 to zero in favor of breaking relations.

Thursday 28 August 2008

In an interview with CNN Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict may have been staged to secure a victory for one of the presidential candidates in the US. He says preliminary reports show that U.S. citizens may have been present in the combat zone. "We have serious reasons to believe that American citizens were right at the heart of the military action. This would have implications for American domestic policy. If this is confirmed, we will have grounds to suspect that somebody in the US has created this conflict to aggravate the situation and create a competitive advantage for one of the presidential candidates ... We are a peace-loving state and want to co-operate with all our neighbours and other states. But if someone thinks they can just come in and kill us, and that our place is in the cemetery, these people should think of the consequences of such policies".

The Bush administration vehemently rejected an insinuation by the Russian prime minister that the Bush administration helped foment the crisis between Russia and Georgia to create an issue for the U.S. presidential election campaign. The Putin remarks drew a swift response from the White House, where Press Secretary Dana Perino said the Russian leader's suggestion was patently false, and sounded irrational. There were similar remarks from State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood, who said Moscow appears to be trying to shift blame for what it did in Georgia, and what it has not done -- in failing to heed terms of the French-brokered cease-fire. "Any charges that the U.S. instigated this conflict are ludicrous," Wood said.

US officials said Russia will face consequences for what was termed its disproportionate military action in Georgia and recognition of two breakaway Georgian regions. Wood said there will be consequences for Russia because of its actions in Georgia, and said the United States and key allies are in the process of reviewing relations and considering punitive actions. White House spokeswoman Perino said shelving a landmark U.S.-Russia nuclear cooperation agreement - potentially highly lucrative for Russian firms - is one step under discussion. Evicting Moscow from the G-8 grouping of world powers reportedly is also a possibility.

Military operations in South Ossetia have impacted the financial sector more significantly than expected: the RTS index plunged 14 percent over a two-week period, and the attractiveness of Russian assets decreased sharply. During the first week of the South Ossetian conflict, investors pulled out $15bn from Russia. Economists have revised their forecasts for Russia's economic growth.

The member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) expressed grave concern over tensions in Georgia, but did not give Moscow clear support in its standoff with the West. The SCO members are Russia, China and four Central Asian countries -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The SCO members did not recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia's independence, though they "Russia's active role" in resolving the conflict in Georgia. Some SCO members face their own problems with separatism. The original military agreements between the SCO countries were based on counterterrorism and counterseparatism. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are not examples Beijing wants independence-minded people in Xinjiang and Tibet to see.

Medvedev thanked the SCO members for their understanding and objective evaluation of Russia's peacekeeping mission. "Unfortunately, we have to state that attempts are being made to secure certain interests using force, not the principles of strict observance of international law and denial of confrontational bloc thinking," said the President. "A fine example of such irresponsible criminal actions is Georgia's aggression against South Ossetia. It is well-known who connived with the Georgian authorities and even incited them, pursuing their own profit. Such behavior is unacceptable and should be stopped. In such an extreme situation, we remained reserved and continued our responsible and predictable policy."

The Kremlin under Vladimir Putin had articulated a policy that saw the protection of ethnic Russians living on the territory of the former Soviet Union as an obligation for the Russian government. New President Dmitry Medvedev has already repeated this is still the policy.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says the European Union is considering sanctions against Russia following its recognition of independence for the Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. France called an EU meeting Monday in Brussels to focus on what steps the 27-member bloc will take in terms of future relations with Russia.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

The US, which has backed its ally Georgia since the start of the crisis, was to deliver more humanitarian aid to the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti. Russian peacekeepers are also patrolling the port. Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the Russian military's General Staff expressed doubt over humanitarian aid delivered by the NATO ships. The cargo allegedly transported by them could be bought on the nearest flea market, without wasting such naval resources, he pointed out. The US Coast Guard Cutter "Dallas" didn't dock in Poti after all, although it had been expected to deliver U.S. humanitarian aid. Some fanfare, accompanied by Georgian and American flags, had been planned but obviously was called off. Authorities decided at the last moment that the vessel would instead dock at Batumi and deliver the aid there.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia will not object to more international observers being sent to guarantee peace and security in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Previously, both the South Ossetian and Abkhazian sides had said they only wanted Russian peacekeepers and observers on their territories.

Lavrov said that Russia was adhering to the six points of the original version of a peace deal brokered by France during Russia's recent conflict with Georgia over breakaway South Ossetia. Western powers have accused Moscow of violating the agreement signed by the Georgian and Russian leaders. However, Lavrov said the document signed by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili bears no relation to that signed by Russia. Lavrov said that after the ceasefire agreement was signed, the text was amended several times, but that the amended text has no relation to the plan Russia agreed to. In particular, he said plans for discussions on the regions' future status, included in the sixth point of the document, were removed from the amended text.

Russia officially informed the UN Secretary General about the country's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence. The Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, called on the Security Council to adopt a resolution which would go along with the six point peace plan. "Russia has recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, mindful of its responsibility for ensuring the survival of their fraternal peoples in the face of the aggressive, chauvinistic policy pursued by Tbilisi ... Saakashvili has himself dashed the possibility of the territorial integrity of Georgia. Using repeatedly brutal military force against the peoples, whom, according to his words, he would like to see within his state, Mikhail Saakashvili left them no other choice but to ensure their security and the right to exist through self-determination as independent states."

However, a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry seemed to suggest that the plan was a dead letter "The vague hopes for the implementation of the joint initiative of the Presidents of Russia and France of August 12, 2008 soon vanished into thin air when Tbilisi actually rejected this initiative and the advocates of Mikhail Saakashvili did his bidding."

The statement also hinted that Moscow would continue efforts to replace the existing government in Georgia with one more sympathetic to Moscow's interests "Russia has sincere good and friendly feelings towards the Georgian people, and is confident that Georgia will eventually find worthy leaders who would be able to show proper concern over their country and develop mutually respectful, equal, and good-neighborly relations with all the peoples of the Caucasus. Russia will stand ready to contribute to this in every way."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was pressing for new talks to determine the role of Russian forces in the region, particularly those currently on Georgian soil. Those demands that have been echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I have reiterated that in my view the six-point peace plan regrettably is not fulfilled, particularly in view of the presence of Russian troops in Poti and other checkpoints, and at the same time I made clear why we have condemned the recognition of Abkhazia and Ossetia, also in accordance with the French presidency," Merkel said.

The Ukrainian government is demanding 72 hours notice each time Russia moves it's Black Sea fleet from it's Crimean base in Ukraine. A new law regarding the fleet's movements has been passed in Ukraine. The law covers ships as well as Russian plane movements over Ukraine. The information required covers personnel, time of departure and the destination port. Russia says the law contradicts agreements made in 1997 between Moscow and Kiev, which determine the conditions under which the fleet could remain.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Russia's president signed decrees recognizing Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states despite warnings by Western leaders not to do so. "Respected citizens of Russia! You undoubtedly know of the tragedy of South Ossetia," began Dmitry Medvedev in a nationwide televised address. "I have signed decrees on the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by the Russian Federation," the president said. Both houses of Russia's parliament voted unanimously on Monday on a resolution asking the president to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. U.S. President George W. Bush had urged Russia not to recognize Georgia's two breakaway regions as independent, and has sent his deputy Dick Cheney to Georgia in a show of U.S. support.

President Dmitry Medvedev Russia does not want a new Cold War but is not afraid of one should it occur. "We are not afraid of anything, including the prospect of a new Cold War, but we don't want one, and in this situation everything depends on the position of our partners," Medvedev said, adding that the West should understand why Moscow recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia's sovereignty. Only two weeks earlier French President Sarkozy and Medvedev had agreed on the six-point plan for a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the Georgia crisis, they envisioned the "opening of international discussions on lasting security and stability arrangements for Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

Up to 500 Georgian troops had massed in the vicinity of the South Ossetian village of Leninogori, deputy head of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Anatoly Nogovitsyn has announced. He also noted that several groups of the Georgian raiding forces of 30 to 100 people had been spotted in the Georgian-South-Ossetian conflict zone.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, held an unscheduled press conference on August 26 to deliver a scathing attack on Georgia's leadership and particularly on President Mikheil Saakashvili. In his statement, Churkin at least twice made reference to "the future leaders of Georgia," and never referred to the democratically elected leader of Georgia as the president. Listening to Churkin, one could hardly avoid the feeling that Moscow was firmly bent on regime change in Tbilisi.

Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitri Rogozin, was recalled for consultations with top Kremlin leaders, including President Medvedev. Rogozin announced what he termed as "the modernization" of Russian-NATO relations, which includes termination or suspension activities related to military affairs. Rogozin said visits to Russia by senior NATO military officials will be suspended, NATO naval vessels will not be allowed to visit Russian ports, and joint military exercises will be halted. Rogozin also noted temporary suspension of visits by NATO military experts and instructors, as well as work to develop a legal basis for the NATO-Russian relationship and operational compatibility of each other's forces. He said the suspensions would last at least through the end of the year.

The plunge in the Russian stock markets can be attributed to the reaction of investors concerned over the escalation of conflict in South Ossetia. As of around 3 p.m., the RTS index plummeted 6 percent to 1,547 points, and the MICEX index dropped 5 percent to 1,252 points. Experts believe that most speculators are wary of the possible continuation of military operations, or hostile moves that could be made by the US or Western European countries. Russian investors may start buying stocks on the market once the panic has subsided. About an hour and a half before the close of the special dollar trading session for tomorrow deals, the high on deals reached 24.77 RUB/USD, which was RUB 0.19 higher than the official rate set by the Bank of Russia for the next day. The decline in the value of the ruble was attributed to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's announcement on the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence.

Monday 25 August 2008

NATO had so far deployed the USS McFaul and the US Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, the Polish frigate General Pulaski, the German frigate FGS Lubeck, and the Spanish navy ship Admiral Juan de Borbon and four from Turkey.

President Dmitry Medvedev warned that Russia could sever all ties with NATO amid a standoff over Russia's response to Georgia's offensive in breakaway South Ossetia. NATO suspended cooperation with Russia last week, and said "business as usual" could not resume until the country withdraws all troops from Georgia. If NATO is not willing to cooperate with Moscow, "we will take any decision, up to terminating relations entirely," Medvedev told Russia's envoy to the alliance, Dmitry Rogozin. "Cooperation is above all in the interests of NATO, not Russia," he said. "We want our relations to be full-fledged and those of partners, but we do not want an illusion of partnership," the president said. "Naturally we are not happy with being surrounded by military bases, and being told 'do not worry, everything's fine,' let alone with the latest events."

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said his country had no need for any illusions of partnership with NATO, adding it is only natural that Moscow does not like the eastward expansion of the alliance. Medvedev says cooperation is above all in the interest of NATO countries, not Russia. The Kremlin leader says that if they break up cooperation, nothing bad will happen to Russia, which he says is prepared to terminate the relationship entirely.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia sees no advantages to World Trade Organization (WTO) membership and should freeze some commitments made during entry talks in a sign Moscow is pulling away from the West after its conflict with Georgia. Putin said Russia's economy would incur a heavy burden in meeting WTO membership requirements and that some of these demands were against the country's interests.

Russia intends to temporarily pull out of several agreements signed during talks on its accession to the WTO, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said during the meeting of the government's Presidium. The official explained that while Russia planned to continue the talks, it was looking to suspend certain agreements that were against its interests at the moment. However, Russia will meet its obligations under these agreements in full as soon as it has joined the WTO, Shuvalov noted. Russia wants to join the WTO, but doubts it will be accepted into the global trade body within the next 12 months, the country's first deputy prime minister said. "The government says WTO accession is in line with Russia's strategic interests, and we will do everything necessary for talks to conclude with Russia joining. However, for the time being, we must note that we see no prospects for WTO accession within several months or a year," Igor Shuvalov told journalists. He said that Russia would continue the accession process, but at the same time would terminate some of the trade agreements it had previously reached with the WTO as being too onerous. "Russia intends to notify its WTO partners about its withdrawal from accords that are in conflict with its interests," he said.

Lawmakers in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, unanimously adopted a resolution calling on President Dmitry Medvedev to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Just hours earlier, the same resolution sailed through the upper house, the Federation Council. Until now, the Kremlin has supported Georgia's two separatist regions financially and politically, but has stopped short of officially recognizing their sovereignty.

Russia has information that Georgia is planning a military attack on Abkhazia to seize the capital Sukhumi, the Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, told a media briefing in Moscow. He said that the military potential of Georgia was being restored for a repeated act of aggression. "We have received serious intelligence information, and we shall discuss in detail the Georgian-Abkhazian direction on Tuesday," he said. "The information is serious. If many media outlets still see Russia as the aggressor in the South Ossetian direction, the plan for seizing Sukhumi is so clear that we shall be able to prove that Georgia was the aggressor in the second direction as well," he added.

Friday 22 August 2008

Russia is very concerned about the recent growth of Georgia's military potential, according to the Deputy Chief of Russia's General Staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn. Nogovitsyn said Georgia occupied a leading position in the world as far as the speed of its military expenditure growth is concerned. According to Nogovitsyn, in 2002 it had a defence budget of $US 18 million and by 2008 it has soared 50-fold to $US 900 million. According to some estimates, Tbilisi is spending 8.5 per cent of the country's GDP on its military. In the period from 2006 to 2007, the number of Georgia's military personnel doubled. "Since 2005, the number of Georgia's tanks has increased from 98 to 183, armoured vehicles from 83 to 134, artillery weapons from 96 to 238, combat helicopters from three to nine and warplanes from seven to nine," Nogovitsyn said.

Russia is not planning to discuss the creation of buffer zones with Georgia, deputy chief of Russia's armed forces General Staff Lieutenant General Anatoly Nogovitsyn told journalists. He pointed out that the countries had reached an agreement, which Georgia violated unilaterally. Therefore, Russia believes that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has neither moral, nor legal right to set forth any conditions at the moment, as Russia is poised to carry out its peacekeeping mandate. Nogovitsyn also said that all zones, in which the peacekeepers were stationed, were legitimate and within the framework of existing agreements. He reiterated that a total of 18 checkpoints with 2,142 peacekeepers were located on the border with Georgia.

NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for South Caucasus and Central Asia, Mr. Robert Simmons discussed with journalists prospective of Georgia-NATO future cooperation " at the ministerial allies have reaffirmed their recognition of Georgia's goal of joining Euro-Atlantic institutions. We affirmed the Bucharest decisions that Georgia will be a member of the Alliance. We'll continue the process we work with the Minister, so we'll have the evaluation of the process in December at the Foreign Ministers' Meetings. We also discussed that we'll create a NATO -Georgia Commission and I think out of that it will mean that Minister will meet with his counterparts, NATO Ministers."

Mr. Robert Simmons said that in the near term NATO would ",,, focus on helping the Georgian government rebuild its military we'll use the good defence priming processes and cooperation that we have with the immediate set of visits to Georgia to begin the discussions how best we do that and to work individually with the allies whether they can contribute to this assistance, that includes in defence planning, the military equipment, second, rebuilding the air defence structures, air traffic management system over Georgia which obviously has been damaged, but looking at particular areas like demining and other areas as well..."

Thursday 21 August 2008

Syria says it's ready to put a Russian missile system on its soil as a counterweight to U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. The offer was made during a meeting between Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad and President Dmitry Medvedev in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Meanwhile, Moscow is considering a request from Syria for more Russian-made weapons. It was the first meeting between the two leaders, and President Al-Assad was keen to show Syria's support for Russia. "We understand what is behind Russia's position ... We believe this is a response to Georgian provocation. We support Moscow in this and are against any attempts to blacken Russia," Al-Assad said.

Moscow has temporarily suspended cooperation with NATO. It follows NATO's criticism of Russia's actions in South Ossetia and threats to shut down the NATO-Russia Council. Lavrov was clear on Russia's course: "We are not going to slam the door on NATO. NATO could slam this door, though. Everything depends on NATO's priorities: if the priorities are absolutely supportive of Saakashvili's bankrupt regime to the detriment of partnership with Russia, then it is not our fault," he said.

The withdrawal of units of the Russian 58th Army from the Georgian city of Gori started on Thursday morning, the Russian Defence Ministry has told Interfax news agency. More than 40 items of military hardware, including armoured personnel carriers, multiple missile launchers, combat vehicles and military trucks, are heading towards the Russian border. The Ministry says the withdrawal of troops is going ahead on schedule.

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, following talks between President Dmitry Medvedev of the Russian Federation and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Sochi, August 21, 2008, said "NATO partners need our support in their Afghanistan operation even more, especially as the fate of the North Atlantic Alliance is indeed being decided in Afghanistan - whether it can fulfill the goals which have been put forward in its transformation or not. That Russia's assistance is critical for NATO is confirmed by the fact that already after the well-known NATO Council meeting at ministerial level, where a rather sharply worded, if devoid of any specificity document was adopted, key alliance members would approach us and whisper in our ears: "I hope you will not stop cooperating with NATO on Afghanistan." "

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Monday 18 August 2008

Sunday 17 August 2008

U.S. President George W. Bush, said Moscow's signing of the truce was "hopeful," but that there can be no question that South Ossetia and Abkhazia will remain within Georgia's borders. "The international community is clear that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia and the United States fully recognizes this reality and will continue to stand behind Georgia's democracy and will continue to insist that Georgia's sovereignty and independence and territorial integrity be respected," Bush said from his home in Crawford, Texas.

On Sunday 17 August 2008 US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Russia must follow through on its promise. "Yet again, the Russian president has given his word, and I hope this time he will honor it," Rice said. Rice was speaking on the "Fox News Sunday" television program. She said Moscow will pay a price on the world stage for its actions. "There have already been significant consequences for Russia," Rice said. "Any notion that Russia was the kind of responsible state [that is] ready to integrate into international institutions of the political, diplomatic, security, economic kind -- this forward-leaning, modern Russia -- that reputation is, frankly, in tatters."

Barack Obama and John McCain seem to have found common ground in the Caucasus. The two candidates took turns answering questions in a religious forum moderated by a pastor. McCain used the opportunity to once again lecture Russia on foreign policy. "The Russians must respect the entire territorial integrity of Georgia, and there's only four million people in Georgia, my friends. I've been there. It's a beautiful little country. They are wonderful people," McCain assured. As expected, Obama took a more neutral stance and called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. "I think that the basic principle has to be that if we have it within our power to prevent mass killing and genocide and we can work in concert with the international community to prevent it, then we should act," he said.

President Dmitry Medvedev said Russian regular forces will begin withdrawing from Georgia beginning on August 18. The pledge came after Moscow followed Tbilisi in signing a cease-fire agreement that calls on Russian forces to withdraw to positions they held before fighting broke out.

The Russian military has said that keeping its troops on Georgian territory is not a breach of the ceasefire agreement. A spokesman said Russian troops were maintaining positions around Gori, but insisted this was only to prevent looting and arms smuggling. French President Sarkozy acknowledged that the cease-fire permited Russian troops to patrol "a few kilometers" beyond the conflict zone in South Ossetia, but says that any additional Russian security measures would "in no way limit or put in danger" the freedom of movement along Georgia's road and rail network. German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Moscow to step up its withdrawal, calling it an issue of "credibility." She spoke at a joint news conference with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says the country won't give up "any square kilometre of its territory" in a warning to its breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The comments are in stark contrast to the words of the leaders of the two republics, who say referendums have proved that their citizens don't want to remain part of Georgia. Saakashvili was speaking at a joint news conference in Tbilisi with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Russians confirmed that they had taken control of the area around the Inguri power plant. The 892-ft Inguri Dam is the world's highest concrete arch dam. The Inguri hydroelectric station (HES) is a cascade of hydroelectric stations including, in addition to the dam - diversion installation of the Inguri HES proper, the near-dam installation of the Perepad HES-1 and three similar channel installations of the Perepad HESs-2, -3, and -4 located on the tailrace emptying into the Black Sea. The HESs of the cascade use the fall of two rivers, the Inguri and Eristskali, by diverting the waters of the Inguri into the Eristskali. In November 2002, Georgia had announced a tender for work to be done on the country's largest hydropower project, the Inguri. The estimated $62 million project is designed to increase the facility's capacity to 1,300 megawatts from the current level of around 400 megawatts. A very high percentage of the electricity supply in Georgia comes from the Inguri plant. If the Russians were to retain control of it, they could effectively blackmail Georgia by switching off electricity supplies.

Saturday 16 August 2008

There were indications that the Russians were seeking to destroy the infrastructure of Georgia to the point where it would be difficult for Georgia to recover. One indication was the bombing of the Georgian railway line at a crucial bridge at the Mtkvari River, near Grakali. This bridge was crucial not only for Georgia, one has to say, but to Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenia is almost totally reliant on this railway to get its exports out to the Western world and to get its imports into Armenia. Azerbaijan is less reliant, but certainly a lot of its oil and gas still went out via that railway to the Georgian ports of Batumi and Poti. By severing that link, Russia has deliberately vandalized a critically important element in the economies, not just of Georgia but of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Friday 15 August 2008

In the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev addressed the tough talk coming out of Washington. "No one is rejecting the principle of territorial integrity as one of the fundamental principles of international law. The question is about a concrete situation in a concrete country, and here is where the main difficulties begin," he said. "Unfortunately, after what happened, the Ossetians and the Abkhaz will hardly want to live in the same state with Georgians.... Russia as a guarantor of security in the Cacausion region will accept the solution which will reflect in unambiguous terms the will of these two Caucasasian peoples." Medvedev said Moscow is not against the presence of international peacekeepers in the two regions, but that "the Ossetians and the Abkhaz themselves trust nobody else but Russian peacekeepers. That's because over the last 15 years, the only troops that have been capable of upholding their interests, and, unfortunately sometimes also having to protect their lives, have been the Russian army" Medvedev said: "Peace in the region should be re-established and guaranteed so that no idiotic ideas ever come to anyone's head - that is the main task for the Russian Federation at the present moment."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed support for Georgia's territorial integrity and called Russian actions in Georgia disproportionate. She spoke after talks in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who expressed doubt that residents of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will ever accept being part of Georgia.

Speaking in Washington, Bush called on Russia to respect Georgia's territorial integrity and to honor its commitment to withdraw its forces from the country. "With its actions in recent days, Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world. Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century," Bush said. "Only Russia can decide whether it will now put itself back on the path of responsible nations or continue to pursue a policy that promises only confrontation and isolation," he added. "To begin to repair its relations with the United States, Europe, and other nations, and to being restoring its place in the world, Russia must respect the freedom of its neighbors."

In Tbilisi, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice worked to get the Georgian president to sign off on the fragile French-brokered cease-fire that stopped fighting this week. "I'm going now to talk to President Saakashvili about the clarifications that the French have provided and then we'll try to get this formal cease-fire in place because the goal of this is to get a cease-fire and to get Russian forces to withdraw from the country ASAP," news agencies quoted Rice as telling reporters en route to the Georgian capital.

Russia's top military official denied claims by a U.S.-based human rights group that Moscow had used cluster bombs in its recent military conflict with Georgia. Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the General Staff, said "We did not use cluster bombs, and what's more there was absolutely no necessity to do so." He in turn accused Georgian troops of planting mines in Tskhinvali as they retreated from the South Ossetian capital earlier this week.

Over 118,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Georgia due to the recent conflict over breakaway South Ossetia, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said. "The latest estimates of displacement related to the conflict now total more than 118,000, based on figures provided by the governments," said spokesman Ron Redmond. About 30,000 South Ossetians fled to Russia, while another 15,000 residents of the rebel republic left for Georgia's proper, Redmond said. Outside of South Ossetia, another 73,000 people have been displaced in the rest of Georgia, including most of the population of the town of Gori, near the South Ossetian border, the official added.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said " ... we cannot have a repeat of what happened in '38, when Neville Chamberlain returned declaring peace in his time and, after all, so what if a small faraway country about which we know nothing is dismembered. Certainly that was the beginning of the conflagration that ensued.... the assumptions that we have held since the end of the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union... that whatever happens inside Russia it will not return to its former ways of invading other countries.... has collapsed and I think it will take a generation to get back to the point where we were in the beginning of August..." President Ilves flew to Tbilisi in the middle of Georgia's war with Russia to stand with four other leaders of former communist countries in support of the Georgian people.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that Russia's relationship with the United States will be damaged for years, if Russia does not step back from its military offensive in Georgia. Gates said the U.S. government had expected the United States and Russia to cooperate in maintaining peace in the region. But he said Russian military behavior in recent days "calls everything into question."

"Russia's behavior over the past week has called into question the entire premise of that dialogue and has profound implications for our security relationship going forward, both bilaterally and with NATO," he said. "If Russia does not step back from its aggressive posture and actions in Georgia, the U.S.-Russian relationship could be adversely affected for years to come."

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov was quoted by Russian news agencies on Thursday 14 August 2008 as saying the world can forget about talk of Georgia's territorial integrity. The conflict in Georgia involved two fundamental but competing principles of international relations. One principle is the inviolability of international borders established by the United Nations and the Final Act of the 1975 Helsinki Agreement. The other is the principle of self-determination of peoples, as enunciated by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's "14 Points" in 1918.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov believes that it is time to forget about Gerogia's territorial integrity, the Echo of Moscow radio station reported. Lavrov stressed that it was impossible to force South Ossetians and Abkhazians to agree with the notion that they can be forcefully integrated into Georgia. He noted that in the situation when Tskhinvali had been burned down and many South Ossetian villages destroyed, it was absolutely impossible to include a reference to territorial integrity in any document. Lavrov pointed out that neither Ossetians nor Abkhazians wanted to live with Georgia in one country.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia will seek independence from Tbilisi under international law, the leaders of Georgia's two rebel regions said Thursday at a joint news conference in Moscow. South Ossetia's Eduard Kokoity said Georgia's attack on August 8 made it possible for the two separatist provinces to seek further international recognition. "Despite the severe blow to our nation, South Ossetians' will and striving for independence remains unchanged," he said. "We will seek independence in strict compliance with international law." His pledge was echoed by Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh: "As to our independence, as to our progress toward this goal, no force will make us stop. The goal has been set, and we will advance toward this goal together."

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier Thursday that Russia could increase its peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia. The country had maintained peacekeepers in Georgia's separatist regions since the 1990s, when Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away following bloody conflicts. During the subsequent counter operation to expel Georgian troops from the de facto independent republic and to reinforce Russian peacekeepers, Moscow sent some 10,000 troops and several hundred armored vehicles into the area.

Dmitry Medvedev met with President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity and President of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh, the Kremlin, Moscow, August 14, 2008. During the meeting the President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity and President of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh signed the six principles for resolving the Georgian-South Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian conflicts. Dmitry Medvedev recalled 12 August 2008 as the date that marked the end of operations obliging the Georgian authorities to restore peace and the adoption of principles of conflict resolution. According to the President, the peacekeeping operation in South Ossetia was carried out effectively, fully achieved its objectives, and the peacekeeping forces performed accurately and in full accordance with the tasks they were given. Dmitry Medvedev described Russia's actions in South Ossetia as absolutely legitimate and justified, stressing that they halted the extermination of an entire people.

In a statement Wednesday, President George W. Bush said Washington would "use U.S. aircraft, as well as naval forces" to distribute supplies, and demanded Russia withdraw troops from Georgia. The first U.S. military aircraft with relief supplies, including medicine, tents and blankets, landed in Georgia Wednesday. Another plane-load was expected Thursday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is leading the U.S. relief effort. The United Nations' World Food Program and refugee agency are also sending aid.

Russia's General Staff said Thursday 14 August 2008 it was concerned by the nature of cargoes the United States was airlifting to Georgia, questioning if they were really humanitarian aid. At a news conference Thursday, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the General Staff, urged the media to press U.S. officials for trustworthy information on the U.S. role in Georgia. "What is going on there?" he asked. "We, the Russians, are extremely concerned about it." Nogovitsyn said "U.S. military transport aircraft are reported to have been airlifting some humanitarian cargoes to Tbilisi airport. Two days ago, reports said we had destroyed the airport."

Wednesday 13 August 2008

On Wednesday 13 August 2008 US President George Bush said Russia may be violating the terms of a cease-fire in Georgia less than a day after agreeing to stop the fighting. The president spoke following reports that a Russian military convoy had pressed deep into Georgian territory. President Bush said he expected Russia to meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia and withdraw all forces that had entered the country in recent days.

"We are concerned about reports that Russian units have taken up positions on the east side of the city of Gori, which allows them to block the east-west highway, divide the country, and threaten the capital of Tbilisi," the president said. "We are concerned about reports that Russian forces have entered and taken positions in the port city of Poti, that Russian armed vehicles are blocked access to that port, and that Russia is blowing up Georgian vessels.... We insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected. Russia has stated that changing the government of Georgia is not its goal. The United States and the world expect Russia to honor that commitment"

The president said the US military would lead a humanitarian mission to Georgia and he expects Russia to honor its commitment to ensure that all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, airports, roads, and airspace remain open for the delivery of assistance and for civilian transit.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defined the view that the operation had been terminated at US President George Bush's demand as fundamentally wrong, stressing that the Russian authorities made the decision because the aims of the operation had been achieved.

There will no longer be representatives from Georgia among the peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement. This was due to the behavior of the Georgian military, who fought under the UN flag during the conflict. "The peacekeepers part of the Georgian contingent turned out to be traitors and cowards, shooting their comrades in South Ossetia, and will never be part of the peacekeeping contingent again," Lavrov stated.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said he refused the services of Russian peacekeepers and insisted that they leave the republic's territories, which still formally include both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Georgian Foreign Minister Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili told journalists in Brussels that "horrible" events had been taking place throughout the day in Georgia. "No cease-fires are in action now; so what is the trust we can put [in] the Russian side?" Tkeshelashvili said. "They still bomb Gori, they still loot the whole villages in and around the conflict zone where the Georgians are living. We have credible information, en masse, that men are taken from the houses, and they are executed."

"European monitors have to be on the ground. Europe has to get engaged physically on the ground, and Europe has to stop [the attacks] from happening," Tkeshelashvili said. "We are part of Europe, and part of Europe is being [attacked] now in a very aggressive manner by armed forces, with large-scale military operations from the Russian side. This [cannot] be happening in the modern world."

European Union foreign ministers have announced they are prepared to send observers to Georgia in a bid to maintain stability. It came as they were meeting in Brussels to discuss their response to the situation of Georgia and South Ossetia. The EU countries say they will support the plan to stabilise the situation in the Caucuses if it receives the backing of the UN Security Council.

The discussion about the security problem in the Caucasus is impossible without considering the status of the self-proclaimed republics, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. At a news briefing in Moscow on Wednesday, he said: "The phrase about the need to internationalize the discussion about ways to ensure South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's stable security means that these issues cannot be resolved out of the status context. "All these issues need to be considered taking into account the objectively existing reality and the administrative system existing in Abkhazia and South Ossetia." He added: "There is a principle that very clearly reflects the need for a new approach to security issues." But Lavrov said the final version of a plan to settle the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict, which was proposed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, does not directly mention their future status.

The sixth point of the ceasefire plan Russia agreed to said the international community should review the fate of Georgia's breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But Georgian President Saakashvili said the territorial integrity of the breakaway regions can never be put under doubt and Georgia had removed the point from its final agreement. [It is a general principle of contract negotiations and interntional diplomacy that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed]

The principle of multilateral talks on the status of the self-proclaimed republics of the Caucasus was challenged by Georgia and amended in a way that Russia eventually agreed to. The new version said that future talks will deal simply with settling the problems of Abkhazia and Ossetia and not specifically their status. The issue of launching an international debate over the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was taken out of the document. Sarkozy said this amendment was made at the request of the Georgian side and agreed with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. According to the French leader, the matter of the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will be raised later, and will be resolved on the condition that the international community is involved.

The United States canceled a joint naval exercise with Russia, scheduled for this week. US officials also said the Group of Eight world largest economies are considering whether to expel Russia and revert to the G 7. The officials also say Washington may reconsider inviting Russia to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

On 12 August 2008 Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council committee for international relations, Vasily Likhachyov, stressed that there is now every reason to demand the recognition of the status of the independent territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, "based on the logic of the recent events and the fact that these territories, from the point of view of a people's right to self-determination, are fully-fledged subjects of international law." Likhachyov is convinced that the Russian members of parliament must return to and review once again the requests of both the Abkhaz and South Ossetian leaders seeking the recognition of their status as independent subjects of international law. He did not rule out the possibility that such requests would once again me made by these republics to the Russian leadership.

Ossetians and Abkhazians should be able to say for themselves whether they want to remain part of Georgia, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev stated during a joint press conference with France's President Nicolas Sarkozy. On 12 August 2008 President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev outlined six principles for the peaceful settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, which were endorsed during his talks with President of France Nicolas Sarkozy. The text released by the Kremlin listed the principles as:

  1. Do not resort to the use of force.
  2. The absolute cessation of all hostilities.
  3. Free access to humanitarian assistance.
  4. The Armed Forces of Georgia must withdraw to their permanent positions.
  5. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation must withdraw to the line where they were stationed prior to the beginning of hostilities. Prior to the establishment of international mechanisms the Russian peacekeeping forces will take additional security measures.
  6. An international debate on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and ways to ensure their lasting security will take place.

The United States redeployed some 2,000 Georgian troops from Iraq to their home country, where a contingent of fewer than 100 American military personnel remain. American C-17s began shuttling the brigade of Georgian forces Aug. 10 and completed the redeployment 11 August 2008. The U.S.-provided transport adhered to an agreement that U.S. and Georgian government officials arranged before Russian tanks and troops crossed Georgia's border on Aug. 8. Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman said the United States, meanwhile, was prepared to provide humanitarian aid to Georgia. No humanitarian missions currently were under way.

The US blocked an emergency NATO-Russia Council meeting on Tuesday 12 August 2008 on the situation in South Ossetia. Russia's Foreign Ministry said by doing it Washington is justifying what Moscow calls 'Georgia's criminal action'. Andrey Nesterenko, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said: "The main problem, I believe, is lack of will to understand the real situation in South Ossetia which is the result of the aggressive actions from Tbilisi, no will to listen to the other side."

Russia's permanent representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said he doesn't understand why NATO is refusing to hold direct talks in the Russia-NATO Council framework. "We're told that it's a technical problem. The U.S. delegation failed to show up this morning at NATO headquarters which resulted in the Russia-NATO Council not going ahead. 'NATO permanent representatives needed more time to figure out what happened' - this is very odd because NATO permanent representatives had enough time to discuss this problem here today during the Council session.

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