Robert A. Bradtke replaces Mathew Bryza as US co-chairman at OSCE Minsk Group

Next OSCE Minsk Group US Co-Chairman Robert A. Bradtke, Photo via RFE/RL
Next OSCE Minsk Group US Co-Chairman Robert A. Bradtke, Photo via RFE/RL

Everyone’s ‘favorite’ OSCE Minsk Group co-chairman Mathew Bryza will probably stop revealing to the media details of Karabakh regulation process, only to come out the next day to say he was misquoted and misunderstood again. Robert A. Bradtke will replace Bryza on that post. The official State Department Statement says:
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Question remains: who started Georgia conflict?

Roki Tunnel
The Roki Tunnel, which links Russia and South Ossetia in Georgia. When Russian forces moved through the tunnel into Georgia at the war’s start is in dispute.
By C.J. CHIVERS
Published: September 15, 2008 in the New York Times

The New York Times carries an article about new evidence, which Georgia is trying to present as solid proof, that the Georgia-Russian war was in fact started by Russians. Georgia has provided intercepts of phone calls along with English translations to the New York Times, claiming, that it is sufficiant evidence.

The Georgian intelligence service has recorded several phone calls on August 7 and 8, which according to them, prove, that Russia had started moving its armed forces into the territory of South Ossetia via the Roki Tunnel before Georgian shelling of South Ossetia.
By Russian accounts, the war began at 11:30 that night, when President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia ordered an attack on Russian positions in Tskhinvali. Russian combat units crossed the border into South Ossetia only later, Russia has said.
By Russian accounts, the war began at 11:30 that night, when President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia ordered an attack on Russian positions in Tskhinvali. Russian combat units crossed the border into South Ossetia only later, Russia has said.
Russia has not disputed the veracity of the phone calls, which were apparently made by Ossetian border guards on a private Georgian cellphone network. “Listen, has the armor arrived or what?” a supervisor at the South Ossetian border guard headquarters asked a guard at the tunnel with the surname Gassiev, according to a call that Georgia and the cellphone provider said was intercepted at 3:52 a.m. on Aug. 7.
“The armor and people,” the guard replied. Asked if they had gone through, he said, “Yes, 20 minutes ago; when I called you, they had already arrived.”
Shota Utiashvili, the director of the intelligence analysis team at Georgia’s Interior Ministry, said the calls pointed to a Russian incursion. “This whole conflict has been overshadowed by the debate over who started this war,” he said. “These intercepted recordings show that Russia moved first and that we were defending ourselves.”
The recordings, however, do not explicitly describe the quantity of armor or indicate that Russian forces were engaged in fighting at that time.
Competing Accounts
Gen. Lt. Nikolai Uvarov of Russia, a former United Nations military attaché, who served as a Defense Ministry spokesman during the war, insisted that Georgia’s attack surprised Russia and that its leaders scrambled to respond while Russian peacekeeping forces were under fire. He said President Dmitri A. Medvedev had been on a cruise on the Volga River. Mr. Putin was at the Olympics in Beijing.
“The minister of defense, by the way, was on vacation in the Black Sea somewhere,” he said. “We never expected them to launch an attack.”

Make sure to read the full article for more. My opinion? Georgia is just trying to save their face, and the calls might well be fabricated. Even if they aren’t – they don’t prove anything.

Western Union international money transfer system is prohibited in Armenia

Western Union LogoAugust 25 decision of the Armenian Central Bank the Western Union international money transfer system is prohibited in Armenia. The CB Council decided to prohibit participation of the Armenian banks in the mentioned system and annul the contracts with it. The decision is motivated by the Armenian banks’ risk management.
In reality, it all started after Azerbaijan protested the fact, that Western Union, Money Gram and other money transfer systems are operating in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. In response to Azerbaijan’s demands, the Western Union and Money Gram stopped their operation in Stepanakert branches of “Artsakhbank”, “Unibank” and “Armeconombank”. Earlier Azerbaijan had also demanded the closure of the Stepanakert branch of VTB bank. It seems, that Azerbaijan is adopting a more comprehensive strategy of isolating Nagorno-Karabakh. I wonder what will be the next step? Demanding the Russia-controlled electiricy network in Armenia to stop providing electricity to Karabakh? Stopping the sun from shining on that territory? What?

Georgia-Russia war buries hopes for Armenia's independence

The world is filled with comment and analysis about the Georgian-Russian war and while the active military actions have ceased, the information war is going on full speed. The Guardian has been my main source of information throughout the past 5-6 days of armed conflict in Georgia, along with the Russian version of the BBC, which was a great deal more balanced than its English language version. At any rate, this analysis by BBC’s Paul Reynolds has captured the essence and reality of the Georgia conflict in short and simple formulations, which are hard to disagree with. Observe the following balance sheet:

Winners Losers
1. Russia
2. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
3. The South Ossetians
4. Old Europe
1. The dead and wounded and the refugees, of course
2. President Saakashvili of Georgia
3. The truth
4. The West

The calculation of winning points and losses is still on and looking at how effective the western propaganda means like BBC and CNN are at disseminating cleverly designed half-truths, Saakashvili might just be able to turn this defeat into a victory.
Meanwhile, Armenia kept an uneasy silence throughout the clash of its two vital partners – Georgia, the main trade route to the world and Russia, the actual owner of this country (Armenian gas, electricity, communications infrastructure, railways are all controlled by Russian companies, Russian army guards Armenia’s border with Turkey).
There were a couple of vague and failed attempts to provoke and involve Armenia into the conflict in Georgia. The first of such attempts was the claim that the Russian warplanes bombing the military airfield near Tbilisi had actually taken off from the Russian airbase situated in Gyumri, Northern Armenia. Following refutations from Armenia, Georgian and Russian sources, the news died down, but the damage was done and Russian bases in Armenia were seen as a potential threat. Armenia was once again depicted as the Russian fore-post in the Caucasus – not that it needed proving or any further publicity. A second false rumor concerned the Armenians in Georgia’s Javakheti region – a nationalist Russian website claimed, that Georgia is planning ethnic cleansing in this mostly Armenian populated area, and that Armenians are gathering into armed groups to defend themselves. And although Armenia successfully avoided any involvement into the Georgia-Russia conflict, there are already sings, that the developments have left great impact on us. Making the assumption, that independence and physical safety of citizens are the key assets of a nation, here are some points for us to consider:

  1. We are hanging out with the strongest guy on our block – Russia showed the world who is the boss in the South Caucasus. Sadly though, the big guy has a nasty character – any attempts to demonstrate independence will result in severe punishment. There goes our independence…
  2. There was strong militaristic sentiment in Azerbaijan on the first day of the conflict, when Georgia attacked South Ossetia. Many in Baku were suggesting Azerbaijan should act by force, just like Georgia and attack Nagorno-Karabakh – a seemingly similar breakaway region of Azerbaijan. Following Russia’s violent response, calls for war toned down in Azerbaijan. However, looking at things more realistically, we will see that South Ossetia has nothing to do with Nagorno-Karabakh. There are no Russian peacekeepers standing on the border and Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev has so far been much more balanced in its attitude towards the West and Russia, than his Georgian counterpart, so Russia has no reason to ‘punish’ Azerbaijan if it attacks Armenia, even though Armenia is part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and Azerbaijan isn’t. With the Georgian invasion Russia has proved all it needs to the West already, so it will have nothing to gain and everything to loose by defending Armenia against Azerbaijan. There goes the physical safety…

…and especially for those who believe in ‘collective security treaties’ and century long friendship of Armenians and Russians, my response will be short – LOL!

Pain and Prayer for South Ossetia, Georgia, Russia

Innocent lives of our brothers in South Ossetia and Georgia became the cost of hypocrisy and imperial ambitions of the US, NATO and Russia. A half-witted, semi-fascistic marionette – Mikhail Saakashvili willingly became the tool in the hands of the daemon.
I pray for peace in this troubled region. I pray for those many friends I have in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Georgia of whom I have no news. I pray for those brothers of mine, whom I have never met before, but who are my brothers all the same. I pray for all those who are now in grave danger.

I will say of the LORD,
“He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver
you from the snare of the fowler
and from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
and under His wings
you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid
of the terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence
that walks in darkness,
nor of the destruction
that lays waste at noonday.
Psalm 91:2-6

Continue reading “Pain and Prayer for South Ossetia, Georgia, Russia”

Saakashvili's miscalculations and war in Ossetia

Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili thought he had picked the perfect time to launch a massive attack against the peaceful population of its breakaway region of South Ossetia and Russian peacekeeping forces last night – the world would be preoccupied with the grand opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, he thought, who would care about the Georgian attempts at Genocide in it’s own territory, right? Need I remind everyone, that even in old Greece wars were halted for the duration of the Olympic games not to overshadow the sacred meaning of the grand tournament? Need I qualify Saakashvili’s ‘Blitz Krig’ immoral, to say the least? And will this dumb macho ever understand, that being the president of Georgia is serious business, not games? I mean – one has to be a complete idiot to think, that:

  • an outgoing US President, a Republican facing a democratic majority in US Parliament will have the political resources to risk a new war after horrors of Iraq;
  • NATO – alliance of countries with stagnating and fuel hungry economies, who have just started to breathe freely because the oil prices have gone down a little bit, will engage in anything against the world’s largest oil and gas exporter, which will surely kick up the energy prices once again and finally kill their economies;
  • that if Russia gets really angry and decides to declare South Ossetia an independent country, UN will be able to do anything, given the Kosovo precedent and the fact that Russia is already quite sick and tired of UN trying to dictate things to it.

Now we have what we have – 1400 reported (unconfirmed) civilian deaths, 10 Russian peacekeepers killed and 30 wounded, heavy fighting on the territory of South Ossetia, Russian tanks and jets entering Georgian territory and according to Georgian claims bombing their military and civilian targets. There are no figures of losses from the Georgian side, but clearly, such an operation will cost them dearly. Saakashvili has already called back the Georgian contingent of 2000 from Iraq and has announced plans of declaring martial law and calling reserves to arms. A full scale war is looming and it doesn’t look like Georgia’s getting any help from anywhere. US President spoke of supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity – but will he dare to translate words into action, given the points I highlighted above? Hardly.
The UN Security Council met late last night only to reveal one more miscalculation of Mr. Saakashvili – with wourld leaders away in Beijing, away from their consultants and intelligence reports, the accusations of Georgian envoy were counterbalanced by the Russian envoy’s equally valid points and counteraccusations, so the Council broke on promise to meet again this morning, not that any results are to be expected anyway.
Meanwhile, we – Armenians have Azerbaijan to worry about – Ilham Aliyev might just decide to take advantage of general disorder in South Caucasus and attempt an attack on Nagorno Karabakh. Armenia’s defence Minister Seyran Ohanyan was in Artaskh yesterday – clearly not a simple sightseeing mission.

Photo: BBC NEWS
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