So far the the troubles in the breakaway parts of Georgia have seemed quite far away and not very destabilising.
It's clear the Russians are trying to create trouble for Georgia so that it has difficulty getting accepted for NATO. Recently they have been trouble making in Abkhazia instead of peacemaking as they prefer to call it. Bringing in the railway troops as "humanitarian aid" to repair the railways is unusual, particularly when the railway repairs just happen to take the railway to the boundary* of Abkhazia and Georgia. Some say the railway is really intended to take out sand and stone for building in Sochi for the Winter Olympics, because there's nothing else to take out.
However it's now the turn of South Ossetia. We were treated to TV pictures (on the BBC I think) of children being evacuated on buses because it wasn't safe. However other reports said the film was actually children going off on their annual summer camp. You would have expected the mums to go too, with a lot of fathers seeing them off and tears, but no dads and the mums seemed quite cheerful wondering what the hell the cameras were for.
It wasn't quite newsworthy enough to get past Olympic mania, though perhaps that was what the Russians were hoping for. However when our driver came back today saying they had been stuck in a traffic jam as the tanks went past we began to wonder what was going on. No pics on the TV at the time (Georgian, BBC or CNN). Not that tanks would be much use in South Ossetia.
Reading the usually well informed** sources of the Jamestown Foundation yesterday, it seems the Russians are trying to calm things down whereas the South Ossetians think that stirring things up will help them..
A public gap has opened between the Ossetian and Russian authorities. The South Ossetian spokeswoman Irina Gagloyeva has publicly expressed dismay: "War is coming, but everyone, including Russia, is turning a blind eye. Russian statements are not helping us" (Kommersant, August 5).
For once the Russians are trying to really be peace-keepers. However
The Georgians are holding back from outright offensive action, but if the Ossetians succeed in provoking a major confrontation, they will be in trouble. Tskhinvali is semi-surrounded by Georgian positions and is virtually indefensible. To prevent the fall of Tskhinvali thousands of Russian troops with hundreds of pieces of armor must invade South Ossetia through the Rokki tunnel and be rushed forward. High casualties are possible and this would be a clear act of aggression.
But today the news is worse. No pics of war on the TV but Saakashvili addressed the nation and was seen visiting the wounded. The Defence Minister gave a press conference.
Finally I found this English language news source which seems to be reporting from the spot as it seems to have 30 minute updates some of the time. This is what they are saying:
President Saakashvili said he had ordered the Georgian forces to cease fire in South Ossetia and added Tbilisi was ready to give Russia role of guarantor of South Ossetia's autonomy.
"A sniper war is ongoing against residents of the villages [in the South Ossetian conflict zone] and as I speak now intensive fire is ongoing from artillery, from tanks, from self-propelled artillery systems – which have been brought in the conflict zone illegally – and from other types of weaponry, including from mortars and grenade launchers," Saakashvili said in a live televised address made at 7:10pm local time on August 7.
He said there were casualties, both dead and "many, many people are wounded." He did not specify numbers and officials from the Interior Ministry were also not able to give exact numbers on casualties.
"The Russian peacekeeping forces told us several hours ago that they have totally lost control over the separatist forces," he said. "We are in permanent contact with the Russian Foreign Ministry, but it fails to convince the separatist to cease fire."
Map of South Ossetia here (Wikipedia).
To think that two weeks ago I was in Gori in the Stalin Museum not far from the
Just saw a tiny report on the BBC about Saakashvili's ceasefire. And the OSCE is calling for talks in Finland.
* I nearly got into a fight at work when i said border without thinking today.
** But not always unbiassed
Technorati Tags: Russia, Georgia, Abhazia, South Ossetia