GEORGIA. Moscow has announced that all troops introduced on and after the 8th are back in Russia. But the peacekeepers remain, at a strength it is said, of 500 in South Ossetia. They have set up checkpoints south of the South Ossetian border (as well as to the east of the Abkhazia border). Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in a statement yesterday, insisted that the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan has in it “written in black and white that, before international mechanisms are created, Russian peacekeepers must carry out additional security measures”. Moscow is clearly taking this to mean that its forces can set up check points on the edges of the demilitarised zones (Map for Abkhazia showing restricted weapons zone; for South Ossetia reference (II.A.3)to 14-km band on either side of the border). Thus, pending the arrival of patrollers from elsewhere (Moscow has just said it would welcome an international police presence in the security zone), Moscow argues that it is abiding by the ceasefire agreements of the early 1990s. (Here is Shevardnadze discussing the South Ossetia agreement and its necessity: “Gamsakhurdia decided to invade the region… the Georgians were not ready for war and they were defeated”).
REINFORCING FAILURE. The US Vice President has just doubled Washington’s bet on Saakashvili. I particularly enjoyed his statement: “After your nation won its freedom in the Rose Revolution”. Freedom from what? Shevardnadze in his time was hailed as a brave democrat too, and not that long ago either.
AFTERMATH. The Organisation of Residents of South Ossetia Against Genocide has filed more than 300 lawsuits with the International Court. This website lists the names of 311 South Ossetian citizens killed who have been identified so far. Meanwhile there are credible reports of Georgians being driven out of South Ossetia. The Chairman of Georgia’s parliamentary defence and national security committee has slightly revised the figure he gave a couple of weeks ago to 156 soldiers, 13 police and 69 civilians killed.
RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY PRINCIPLES. On Sunday Medvedev outlined five points of Moscow’s foreign policy. Appeal to international law principles (ie the UN et al); opposition to unilateralism; no desire for isolation; protection of citizens and interests; there are parts of the world where Russian has special interests. All this should be familiar from years of repetition, but no one used to bother to listen. Now they do and, because it all seems new to them, they draw the wrong conclusions.
A REMINDER. On Thursday a Russian ICBM, said to have measures against ABM systems, was launched.
TNK-BP. The long struggle may be over – the principals signed an MOU today.
CHICKEN WARS. PM Putin has announced that 19 US firms will not be allowed to export to Russia; he claimed sanitary grounds saying that the 19 had ignored Russian remonstrations.
MAGOMED YEVLOYEV. Magomed Yevloyev, an opponent of President Zyazikov of Ingushetia. was killed while in police custody on Sunday. The police story is that he was accidentally shot while trying to seize a weapon. The federal Investigative Committee has opened an investigation into his death.
GAS WARS. The low price that Ukraine has been paying for gas since 2006 was the consequence of Turkmenistan’s willingness to sell cheap. But it, the source of about 60% of Ukraine’s gas, is no longer prepared to do so; this has been clear since at least October 2007 and the Achilles heel of the January 2006 deal was always the question of how long it was willing to subsidise Ukrainian customers. It all began to unravel when President Niyazov died about 18 months ago and Berdymukhammedov started slowly reversing his acts. This will, as usual, be painted as another piece of Russian imperialism.
UKRAINE. The two principals of the “Orange Revolution” are again at each other’s throats. Yesterday, saying that PM Tymoshenko was starting a “political and constitutional coup d’état”, President Yushchenko threatened to dissolve parliament and call new elections. Tymoshenko’s party scorned this as “adventuristic lies”. Meanwhile, Yanukovich, head of the largest single party in the parliament, must be smiling. A new poll shows 46% of Ukrainians expecting NATO accession to destabilise the country and only 30% disagreeing with that proposition. But what do Ukrainians know about their own interests?
© Patrick Armstrong, Ottawa, Canada