Caucasus Theater

Georgia calls home troops from Iraq to fight in South Ossetia

Georgia is calling home 1,000 of its 2,000 troops in Iraq for a general mobilization to fight Russian-backed separatists in South Ossetia. Georgia's national security chief Kakha Lomaia said Tbilisi ordered the withdrawal to "defend ourselves from Russian aggression." (AGI, Aug. 8) Late Aug. 8, Georgian officials reported at least one Russian air-strike, on the Black Sea port of Poti. They said Russian bombers were flying over Georgian territory and that the presidential offices and residence in Tbilisi had been evacuated. (NYT, Aug. 9)

Georgia battles separatists in South Ossetia

Georgia declared a cease-fire following an outburst of heavy fighting with separatist forces in the breakaway region of South Ossetia Aug. 7. Georgia is blaming Russia for the escalation of violence. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in televised remarks: "The Russian peacekeeping forces told us several hours ago that they have totally lost control over the separatist forces. We are in permanent contact with the Russian Foreign Ministry, but it fails to convince the separatist[s] to cease fire." Moscow has not yet responded to the claim.

Georgian provocation behind Abkhazia terror?

A series of explosions in three towns in the Georgian separatist region of Abkhazia—Gagra, Sukhumi, and Gali—and a skirmish between Georgian and separatist forces in the Georgian-controlled Upper Kodori Gorge topped the agenda as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice July 9-10. The Abkhaz separatist government in Sukhumi blames Tbilisi for the violence; Tbilisi, of course, blames Moscow. Sukhumi alleges the attacks are aimed at scaring Russians away from Abkhazia's Black Sea resorts, just as the summer tourist season gets under way.

Russia wages "dirty war" in Ingushetia

From Human Rights Watch, June 25:

Russia: Stop 'Dirty War' Tactics in Ingushetia
Killings, Torture, Disappearances in Chechnya-Style Counterinsurgency

Moscow – The Chechnya armed conflict has spread human rights abuses and instability across the North Caucasus, and particularly in Ingushetia, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch urged the Russian government to amend its counterinsurgency techniques and address impunity for violations in Ingushetia to ensure that the situation does not descend to the appalling abuses that characterized the conflict in Chechnya.

Armenian genocide commemoration highlights struggle for Caucasus

Thousands marched in Yerevan April 24, the 93rd anniversary of the start of the mass killing campaign of at least 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. More than 10,000, mostly youths and students, carried torches and candles, demanding Turkey join several other countries around the world in officially recognizing the massacres as genocide. After burning a Turkish flag in Yerevan's Freedom Square, participants marched to a monument to the victims of the genocide, where they laid wreaths and flowers. Many carried flags of the 23 countries whose governments or parliaments have recognized the killings as genocide, including Canada, France, Switzerland and Poland.

Abkhazia: new Cold War frontline?

Officials in Georgia are seeking to use the alleged downing of a Georgian reconnaissance drone by a Russian warplane to build international support for reducing the Kremlin's "peacekeeping" role in the separatist enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia's Foreign Ministry asserts that a Russian MIG-29 shot down the Georgian Interior Ministry drone off the Black Sea coastline of Abkhazia April 20. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says the drone's final video footage provides "clear proof" of a Russian violation of Georgian airspace.

Eight dead in Armenia political violence

Eight people are reported killed in overnight clashes between police and opposition protesters in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, March 2. The protesters, who have rallied in the capital for 12 days, accuse the government of rigging last month’s presidential election. Troops and armored vehicles are now patrolling the main streets of Yerevan, and President Robert Kocharian has declared a 20-day state of emergency. Police and Interior Ministry troops used truncheons, tear gas, and electric stun guns to disperse opposition supporters from a central Yerevan square March 1, but thousands who regrouped later. Riot police fired tracer bullets into the air and again used tear gas to disperse the crowd of 15,000. Some protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police. Several vehicles were set fire. Human Rights Watch charges Armenian authorities with using "excessive force and violence" against the protesters.

Georgia: Rose Revolution meets the new boss

In contrast to their Cold War counterparts of yesterdecade, who openly embraced any dictator who was "our son of a bitch," today's neocons often seem to really believe their own rhetoric about how their global project is expanding democracy. This is why the auto-golpe in Pakistan puts them in such a pickle. Compounding their discomfort is the similar power-grab that US-backed President Mikhail Saakashvili is now attempting in Georgia—just two weeks short of the fourth anniversary of the "Rose Revolution" that put him in office. At the time of the Rose Revolution, the kneejerk anti-America crowd squawked about how it was all the work of the CIA and George Soros. Now Saakashvili is squawking about how the current wave of protest is all the work of Russian secret agents. Funny how those in power never seem to think anyone would have any legitimate reason to be pissed off at them.

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