Georgia's Foreign Ministry said Aug. 16 that Russian-backed separatists in Abkhazia have seized 13 villages in Georgia and the Inguri hydropower plant. Russian army units and separatist forces shifted the border of breakaway Abkhazia toward the Inguri River, setting up a temporary administration in the seized villages. The power plant and most of the villages are in a buffer zone established by the 1994 UN-brokered ceasefire. The buffer zone stretches from Abkhazia's Gali region and Georgia's Zugdidi region, including a narrow strip between Abkhaz territory and the Inguri. Abkhazia's de facto president Sergei Bagapsh acknowledged the Abkhaz move into the buffer zone would violate the ceasefire terms, but asserted that Georgia was the first to break the truce. (AP, Aug. 16)
An Aug. 15 New York Times story, "Signs of Ethnic Attacks in Georgia Conflict," states: "The identities of the attackers vary, but a pattern of violence by ethnic Ossetians against ethnic Georgians is emerging and has been confirmed by some Russian authorities." It quotes Maj. Gen. Vyacheslav Nikolaevich Borisov, commander in charge of Russian-occupied Gori, as saying, "Now Ossetians are running around and killing poor Georgians in their enclaves." It also cites Human Rights Watch as saying it had "documented attacks by ethnic Ossetians in and around Tskhinvali." Yet the HRW press release on its report from Georgia also noted the "plight of ethnic Ossetian villagers who had fled Georgian soldiers"—a plight not mentioned by the Times. We hope HRW will write a letter to the Times calling the newspaper out on this critical omission.
Robert Scheer uncovers an interesting piece of the puzzle as to what transpired in Georgia over the past week. But he can't resist the temptation to portray it as the entire explanation for the war—in further evidence of the current hegemony of the Conspiracy Theory of History in dissident (and even not-so-dissident) discourse these days. From AlterNet, Aug. 13, emphasis added. Our commentary follows.
While mainstream media coverage in the West has generally painted a once-sided picture of arbitrary Russian aggression against an innocent Georgia, much of the "alternative media" is merely inverting the equation—and arriving at similarly skewed perceptions. We hate to have to call out Bruce Gagnon, because his Space4Peace.org website is a vital resource. But just because he's up to speed on weapons in space doesn't make him politically astute about other things. His Aug. 12 blog post—highlighting the similarly faulty analysis of one Patrick Schoenfelder—is a case study in mere kneejerk reaction to mainstream portrayals as a substitute for actual thought. We reproduce it below with untruths and distortions in bold. Our commentary follows.
Russia says it is gathering evidence for charges of genocide against Georgia, accusing it of driving 30,000 refugees out of South Ossetia. Georgia responded by filing a case against Russia at the International Court of Justice for ethnic cleansing between 1993 and 2008. (London Times, Aug. 13) Human Rights Watch reports that on Aug. 12, its researchers "saw ethnic Georgian villages still burning from fires set by South Ossetian militias, witnessed looting by the militias, and learned firsthand of the plight of ethnic Ossetian villagers who had fled Georgian soldiers during the Georgian-Russian conflict over the breakaway region of South Ossetia." (HRW, Aug. 13)
British Petroleum has closed both the Baku-Ceyhan and Baku-Supsa pipelines through Georgia, while denying that either of them have actually been damaged in the fighting. The closure of the Baku-Supsa or Western Route Export Pipeline (WREP) further limits BP's export options from the Caspian Sea after a fire (caused by a guerilla attack) damaged its key Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) link to Turkey last week. The Shah-Deniz field in Azerbaijan is effectively shut down, and operations have been reduced at the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli oilfields. (Reuters, Aug. 12)
Oil prices surged Aug. 11 on concerns that fighting between Russia and Georgia could threaten the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Crude was up by $1.19 to $116.39 a barrel in New York. It rose $1.81 to $115.14 a barrel in London. (London Evening Standard, Aug. 11) Georgia's Black Sea ports of Supsa and Batumi, key transfer points for crude exports from Azerbaijan, have been reduced to partial operation as a result of the fighting. A third Georgian port, Poti, is completely shut following air-strikes. (Lloyd's List, Aug. 11) The Baku-Supsa pipeline, completed in 1999 by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), has a capacity of 115,000 barrels per day (bpd). (Alexander's Oil & Gas, May 17, 1999) The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline has a capacity of 1 million bpd (1% of daily world consumption). (Reuters, Aug. 7)
Georgian authorities say Russian warplanes are targeting the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, and have carried out over 50 air-strikes near the conduit. A BP-led consortium operates the pipeline, which transports one million barrels a day from Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean. "They need control of energy routes," Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said of the Russians. "They need sea ports. They need transportation infrastructure. And primarily, they want to get rid of us." (The Telegraph, Aug. 11)