Armenian bloggers stage a protest action in front of Georgian Embassy

Today a protest action was held before the Georgian Embassy: the 10 – 15 participants of the action solemnly buried Georgian democracy in response to Georgian attempts to scrap signs of Armenian heritage from the Armenian St. Norashen Church in Tbilisi.

The action was organized and staged by Armenian bloggers.
“Georgia has always been a friendly country to Armenia. However, the experience of the past five years showed but one thing: that country has been moving towards fascism. We do not care for the reasons being mere complexes or the bitterness of the defeat. We care for only one thing: crimes, cases of obvious hooliganism, are being committed, graves are being dug, historical monuments are being razed to the ground”, – the bloggers told Echannel at the event.
The action was staged in protest of the continuous efforts by Georgian priests to “georganize” Armenian churches in the territory of that country. The recent incident, which stirred bloggers’ discontent was related to the attempt by Georgian priest Tariel Sikinchelashvili to demolish the graves of Armenian Tamamshyan family placed in the backyard of St. Norashen church in the centre of Tbilisi.
The participants of the action also presented the Embassy with Armenian wine that bore the label Norashen. The Georgian ending ‘i’ was added to it.

Video and information via E-channel.

Blogs warn of more attacks on Armenian Norashen Church in Tbilisi

Blogs were the first to blow the whistle about the fresh attacks by Georgians on Armenian church – St. Norashen in Tbilisi. The traditional media tailed the blogosphere in disseminating the information and providing analysis.

The posts and comments started rolling in the blogosphere after Vesta’s post:

“Today, on November 16th, father Tariel Sikinchelashvili, along with several workers, started to demolish the graves of Tamamshyanns placed in the backyard of Norashen church. The crowd of frustrated Tbilisi-Armenians demanded that tombstones be returned to their original locations”.

The blogger, who had eyewitnessed the developments, has further written.

“Following the arrival of the representatives of Armenian church in Georgia and the Armenian MP in the Georgian Parliament, the Georgian priest claimed, that he had temporarily moved the tombstones and that his intention had been to clean-up the churchyard”.

Journalist, blogger Karine Ter-Sahakyan is surprised with the stance of Georgian-Armenian community and the Armenian Apostolic church.

“What exactly are the head of Georgian Armenian church and the Armenian advisor of Georgia’s president Van Bayburd busy with? Whenever you ask them – nobody treats Armenian’s better than the Georgian authorities.”

Another journalist-blogger Mark Grigoryan is drawing parallels and asking questions.

“I want to particularly stress the fact, that it is hard to imagine something like this happening in the capital of “much hated by Armenians – Turkey”. And here, look, in the “brotherly Georgia”… what a shame! I am appalled by the silence of Georgian public.”

The blogger Gost-474-90 says s/he had been the most pro-Georgian Armenian blogger, until recently. “The story of Norashen church this time was the last straw” – the blogger says.
Download the mp3 version of the Armenian blogosphere radio program containing the blog review above along with an interview with Georgian-Armenian blogger Athanatoi or listen to it online by clicking the player icon below.

Serious setback of press freedom registered in South Caucasus

Reporters Without Borders international organization has just released its annual press freedom index, compiled annually, which has revealed a serious setback in press freedom in the South Caucasus region.
The index. which is compiled by filling in a questionnaire with 49 criteria that assess the state of press freedom in each country, coveres 173 countries overall. This year’s index has revealed, that the most serious degradation of press freedom in the world has taken place in our region: in Georgia and Armenia.
Armenia, which was on 77-th position on the index last year has slipped down to 102-nd position, most probably due to the introduction of emergency rule on March 1-20, illegal pre-emptive censorship applied in the same period in Yerevan’s publishing houses as well as numerous attacks against journalists and the continous state control of the broadcast sphere. Interestingly, Turkey shares the 102-nd position with us.
A more dramatic fall has been registered in Georgia’s rating: the country was on the rather advanced, 66th position in 2007, but has fallen to 120th position.
Azerbaijan continues to steadily fall in the index: a fall by 11 points was registered this year. From 137th position of last year Azerbaijan is now on the 150th. Iran is again on position 166, thus concluding the picture of restrictive and undemocratic South Caucasian region.
The situation has very slightly improved in Russia with the coming of president Dmitri Medvedev, although, recalling their media coverage of the war in Georgia, I find this rather surprising. An improvement by 3 points was registered here, the country has moved from 144th to 141st slot in the RSF index.
The first slots in the rating are again occupied by Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway. The index is tailed by Myanmar (Burma), Turkmenistan, North Korea, Eritrea.

Podcast: The global crisis as seen on the blogging week

The 23rd issue of “Armenian Blogosphere” Radio Program is out and can be downloaded from here. The program brings comments by bloggers on the decline in global markets and shift in US and Russian policies in the Caucasus.
Athanatoi has detected warming of Russia-Turkey and Russia-Azerbaijan relations seeing dangers for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in this shift of Russian intersets. Mark Grigoryan on the other hand, has interviewed American co-chairman of OSCE Minsk Group – Mathew Bryza, and notes, that first time ever a co-chair speaks to an international media outlet and states, that the Karabakh conflict should be settled based on the principle of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. “This indicates a shift of US approach to the Karabakh conflict”, Mark Grigoryan thinks. Kornelij Glas comments on the fall of Russian stock indices and decline of oil prices below $89. Nazarian compares the US and Russian economies and sees no reason for Russian speculations about the downfall of US economy and perceptions on takeover of the US interests in the world by Russia.
Back to Armenian realities. Following the President’s address to the nation from the Parliament, Uzogh has found a fundamental difference between President Serge Sargsian and his predicessor – Robert Kocharyan. While “Kocharyan sees the state as a political system”, the blogger remarks, “Sargsyan sees it as an economic one”. Mark Grigoryan looks at the speech from another perspective – the President didn’t say anything about 1) Armenia-Turkey relations 2) Karabakh conflict 3) Georgia-Russia conflict 4) Events of March 1st. “So it turns out the president didn’t say anything on the most important issues?”, the journalist-blogger asks?
This podcast also features an interview with wonderful Armenian blogger and writer Byurie.

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.

Abkhazia, South Ossetia to become a measure of Russia's international influence

Both houses of Russia’s parliament have urged Dmitri Medvedev to recognize the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, BBC Reports. Although voted unanimosly in favour by both houses of Russian Duma, the bill will have to be ratified by President Medvedev, before it comes into action. The choice is not as easy as it seems, however, and the Kremlin might delay its decision while it carries out wider negotiations with the West on the crisis. The decision to recognize the independence of the two breakaway regions might become a testing ground of Russia’s international influence and the Abkhaz and South Ossetian struggle for independence might end up either like Kosovo, whose independence was accepted by a substantial number of governments, or like Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey. Will Russia want to take the risk? Will it have to force allies like the CSTO members, Venezuela and Cuba?
It is almost certain, that if Russia pushes for it, Armenia will have to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Meanwhile Armenia hasn’t recognized Kosovo yet, although given our quest for self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh, it would have seemed like the most natural thing for us to do. We would have everything to gain and nothing to loose, especially as it would be fully in line with out ‘complimentary’ foreign policy and would demonstrate at least a limited degree of independence from Russia. Meanwhile, recognizning the two breakaway regions of Georgia, our main export route, is going to be a controversial choice. And while it would be great news for Nagorno-Karabakh, the economic consequencies might prove destructive for the Armenian economy.

FOX news cuts Ossetian girl blaming Georgia's President for war

30 seconds – that’s how much time FOX news, the Bush propaganda machine is prepared to allocate to alternative views on Georgia-Russia war.

In this video posted on you tube, as soon as the girl and her aunt start saying that Georgia was responsible for the attack on their town, the Fox News presenter cuts her off with a bogus claim that they are about to go to commercial break, even though they just returned from one less than 2 minutes before. When they return, he gives them only 10 seconds to speak and then adds “Well, that’s certainly what Russia wants you to think” before cutting their mics.

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!

Russia's Dmitry Medvedev announces an end to Georgia-Russia war

“I have reached a decision to halt the operation to force the Georgian authorities to peace,” Medvedev said. “The aggressor has been punished and has incurred very significant losses. Its armed forces are disorganized.” Despite the Russian president’s announcement, it is still unclear, whether this means an end to the war, or not. However, some conclusions can be drawn even today.
The cost of the 6 day war, that started with Georgia’s genocidal attack against the peaceful population of its breakaway South Ossetian region and ended with Russia’s response action followed by Russian intrusion into Georgian territory, blockade of Black See ports and opening of second front from Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia, has been horrible for Georgia. According to Russian claims, there are 2,000 dead and over 30,000 refugees from the South Ossetian population of around 100,000 people. Georgian army and military infrustructure suffered a deadly blow from the Russians, whose massive “peace enforcement” campaign turned into a full scale invasion into Georgia, with conflicting reports of taking Gori, Zugdidi, Seneki, etc.
Even now it is hard to understand who were the conflicting sides? There are suggestions, that it was 1. Georgia, 2. Russia, 3. USA, 4. NATO, 5. South Ossetia and Abkhazia – sorted according to the degree of their involvement. At this point it is also hard to understand who won – Russia? The West? One thing is clear – peaceful population of South Ossetia were the ones who paid the horrible price for geopolitical ambitions and divisions of influence.  It is also beyond any doubts, that Georgia lost badly and the world has yet to study the lessons of the Georgia-Russia war, one lesson learnt is – Kosovo precedent has everything to do with the burning and frozen conflicts in the South Caucasus. Perhaps it is the right time to think about the consequencies for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

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

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