Daily Archives: July 6, 2007

The Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Final Fiasco?

Everyting old is new again. And we do mean everything.

By an extremely narrow margin, the International Olympic Committee has voted to hold the 2014 Olympic games in the Russian city of Sochi. It’s a brilliant decision, for many reasons.

First of all, Sochi is famous for warm, sandy beaches and palm trees, which will come in quite handy in hosting the winter olympiad. After all, if a country is going to hold an olympics, why not hold it in the most southern locality possible! Miami Florida in 2028!

Second, the games will take place right in the back yard of the Chechen terrorists, literally walking distance from their strongholds in the mountains, becoming an irresistible target for violence and bloodshed such as the world has never before seen at an olympics. Though the Kremlin won’t be able to stop this violence (heaven only knows how many Beslans and Dubrovkas will occur), it will of course conveniently justify yet another massive round of crackdowns on Russia’s already oppressed population.

Meanwhile, the IOC is helping Russia to cover up it’s gross pattern of human rights abuses in the region, condemned by every human rights organization under the sun including, on many occasions, in official rulings of the European Court for Human Rights (the most recent example of which appears in another of today’s posts, below).


At the same time, Russia will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Sochi, already a playground for Russia’s rich and famous that doesn’t need investment, whilst the rest of the country continues to languish in extreme poverty . . .


. . . and Russia’s crude, barbaric xenophobia will have a chance to consume dozens of dark-skinned athletes and fans from around the world if they are foolish enough to step outside their heavily guarded hotel rooms.

All that is to say nothing, of course, about the possiblity that Russia simply won’t be able to meet its basic obligations to build a suitable facility due to corruption and general incompetence, features of Russian life with which every Russian visitor is well acquainted, leaving Russia humiliated as having hosted (or even failed to host) the worst olympics in history. What if the price of oil drops? What if Vladimir Putin has a heart attack? The number of ways this could go horribly wrong for Russia are uncountable.

And it’s to say nothing of the possibility of a shooting war breaking out between Russia and any one of a number of its neighbors, as the piece below from the Wall Street Journal on the Kodori attack on Georgia makes clear.

Neither Austria nor Korea, Russia’s two rivals for the 2014 games, have been convicted of human rights violations in the ECHR, neither is fighting an ongoing war of imperialism with a breakway province, and both are far more economically advanced and progressive than Russia. Just as Russia doesn’t belong by any objective measure on the G-8 but sits there anyway, it simply isn’t qualified to host an olympics. The fact that Russia maintains these possibilities despite obvious reality is conclusive proof of the need for this blog.


As many will already know, this isn’t the first time something totally insane like this has happened. For instance, the USSR hosted the 1980 summer olympics (America boycotted them) and Nazi Germany hosted the games in 1936. In less than ten years thereafter, Nazi Germany ceased to exist. Will we be as lucky where Putin’s KGB Russia is concerned?

When Russian athletes win medals at Sochi (if they find any snow and ice), the music of the national anthem of the USSR will play to honor them. Perhaps by then Russia will even have revived the Soviet flag to fly above them. So we’ll get to see Russia in its full neo-Soviet glory, just the way we saw Nazi Germany.

All this presents us with a great opportunity. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that the Putin administration actually even wanted the games to occur on Russian soil, although it’s possible that it is so drunk on power that it actually does. How much better would it have been if the games were denied, so the Kremlin could have claimed proof of Western hatred of Russia. That’s going to be a much harder argument to make now, when for instance Russia tries to block defensive missiles in Europe. Then on top of that, in 2014 the world’s journalists will swarm over Russia, dredging up every bit of horror from the Katyn massacre to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Every human rights and opposition political group under the sun will have an instant international platform to criticize Russia, and institutions like La Russophobe will have a field day. Right now, most of the time, the world just gives a giant collective Y-A-W-N when it hears about Russia, but in 2014 at least for a few weeks the world will be forced to train its cameras on Russia and see it for what it is. It won’t like the picture, not one little bit. Quite possibly, dictator Putin will have returned to power in 2012 with a new seven-year term, expecting to rule the country until at least 2026.
Less than 10 years after the USSR hosted the summer games, it ceased to exist. Perhaps that is a wonderful harbinger for Putin’s Russia as well. So bring on the Sochi games of 2014! The opportunity to galvanize a boycott movement alone will be worth its wait in gold. La Russophobe congratulates the IOC on its brilliant decision!

The Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Final Fiasco?

Everyting old is new again. And we do mean everything.

By an extremely narrow margin, the International Olympic Committee has voted to hold the 2014 Olympic games in the Russian city of Sochi. It’s a brilliant decision, for many reasons.

First of all, Sochi is famous for warm, sandy beaches and palm trees, which will come in quite handy in hosting the winter olympiad. After all, if a country is going to hold an olympics, why not hold it in the most southern locality possible! Miami Florida in 2028!

Second, the games will take place right in the back yard of the Chechen terrorists, literally walking distance from their strongholds in the mountains, becoming an irresistible target for violence and bloodshed such as the world has never before seen at an olympics. Though the Kremlin won’t be able to stop this violence (heaven only knows how many Beslans and Dubrovkas will occur), it will of course conveniently justify yet another massive round of crackdowns on Russia’s already oppressed population.

Meanwhile, the IOC is helping Russia to cover up it’s gross pattern of human rights abuses in the region, condemned by every human rights organization under the sun including, on many occasions, in official rulings of the European Court for Human Rights (the most recent example of which appears in another of today’s posts, below).


At the same time, Russia will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Sochi, already a playground for Russia’s rich and famous that doesn’t need investment, whilst the rest of the country continues to languish in extreme poverty . . .


. . . and Russia’s crude, barbaric xenophobia will have a chance to consume dozens of dark-skinned athletes and fans from around the world if they are foolish enough to step outside their heavily guarded hotel rooms.

All that is to say nothing, of course, about the possiblity that Russia simply won’t be able to meet its basic obligations to build a suitable facility due to corruption and general incompetence, features of Russian life with which every Russian visitor is well acquainted, leaving Russia humiliated as having hosted (or even failed to host) the worst olympics in history. What if the price of oil drops? What if Vladimir Putin has a heart attack? The number of ways this could go horribly wrong for Russia are uncountable.

And it’s to say nothing of the possibility of a shooting war breaking out between Russia and any one of a number of its neighbors, as the piece below from the Wall Street Journal on the Kodori attack on Georgia makes clear.

Neither Austria nor Korea, Russia’s two rivals for the 2014 games, have been convicted of human rights violations in the ECHR, neither is fighting an ongoing war of imperialism with a breakway province, and both are far more economically advanced and progressive than Russia. Just as Russia doesn’t belong by any objective measure on the G-8 but sits there anyway, it simply isn’t qualified to host an olympics. The fact that Russia maintains these possibilities despite obvious reality is conclusive proof of the need for this blog.


As many will already know, this isn’t the first time something totally insane like this has happened. For instance, the USSR hosted the 1980 summer olympics (America boycotted them) and Nazi Germany hosted the games in 1936. In less than ten years thereafter, Nazi Germany ceased to exist. Will we be as lucky where Putin’s KGB Russia is concerned?

When Russian athletes win medals at Sochi (if they find any snow and ice), the music of the national anthem of the USSR will play to honor them. Perhaps by then Russia will even have revived the Soviet flag to fly above them. So we’ll get to see Russia in its full neo-Soviet glory, just the way we saw Nazi Germany.

All this presents us with a great opportunity. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that the Putin administration actually even wanted the games to occur on Russian soil, although it’s possible that it is so drunk on power that it actually does. How much better would it have been if the games were denied, so the Kremlin could have claimed proof of Western hatred of Russia. That’s going to be a much harder argument to make now, when for instance Russia tries to block defensive missiles in Europe. Then on top of that, in 2014 the world’s journalists will swarm over Russia, dredging up every bit of horror from the Katyn massacre to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Every human rights and opposition political group under the sun will have an instant international platform to criticize Russia, and institutions like La Russophobe will have a field day. Right now, most of the time, the world just gives a giant collective Y-A-W-N when it hears about Russia, but in 2014 at least for a few weeks the world will be forced to train its cameras on Russia and see it for what it is. It won’t like the picture, not one little bit. Quite possibly, dictator Putin will have returned to power in 2012 with a new seven-year term, expecting to rule the country until at least 2026.
Less than 10 years after the USSR hosted the summer games, it ceased to exist. Perhaps that is a wonderful harbinger for Putin’s Russia as well. So bring on the Sochi games of 2014! The opportunity to galvanize a boycott movement alone will be worth its wait in gold. La Russophobe congratulates the IOC on its brilliant decision!

The Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Final Fiasco?

Everyting old is new again. And we do mean everything.

By an extremely narrow margin, the International Olympic Committee has voted to hold the 2014 Olympic games in the Russian city of Sochi. It’s a brilliant decision, for many reasons.

First of all, Sochi is famous for warm, sandy beaches and palm trees, which will come in quite handy in hosting the winter olympiad. After all, if a country is going to hold an olympics, why not hold it in the most southern locality possible! Miami Florida in 2028!

Second, the games will take place right in the back yard of the Chechen terrorists, literally walking distance from their strongholds in the mountains, becoming an irresistible target for violence and bloodshed such as the world has never before seen at an olympics. Though the Kremlin won’t be able to stop this violence (heaven only knows how many Beslans and Dubrovkas will occur), it will of course conveniently justify yet another massive round of crackdowns on Russia’s already oppressed population.

Meanwhile, the IOC is helping Russia to cover up it’s gross pattern of human rights abuses in the region, condemned by every human rights organization under the sun including, on many occasions, in official rulings of the European Court for Human Rights (the most recent example of which appears in another of today’s posts, below).


At the same time, Russia will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Sochi, already a playground for Russia’s rich and famous that doesn’t need investment, whilst the rest of the country continues to languish in extreme poverty . . .


. . . and Russia’s crude, barbaric xenophobia will have a chance to consume dozens of dark-skinned athletes and fans from around the world if they are foolish enough to step outside their heavily guarded hotel rooms.

All that is to say nothing, of course, about the possiblity that Russia simply won’t be able to meet its basic obligations to build a suitable facility due to corruption and general incompetence, features of Russian life with which every Russian visitor is well acquainted, leaving Russia humiliated as having hosted (or even failed to host) the worst olympics in history. What if the price of oil drops? What if Vladimir Putin has a heart attack? The number of ways this could go horribly wrong for Russia are uncountable.

And it’s to say nothing of the possibility of a shooting war breaking out between Russia and any one of a number of its neighbors, as the piece below from the Wall Street Journal on the Kodori attack on Georgia makes clear.

Neither Austria nor Korea, Russia’s two rivals for the 2014 games, have been convicted of human rights violations in the ECHR, neither is fighting an ongoing war of imperialism with a breakway province, and both are far more economically advanced and progressive than Russia. Just as Russia doesn’t belong by any objective measure on the G-8 but sits there anyway, it simply isn’t qualified to host an olympics. The fact that Russia maintains these possibilities despite obvious reality is conclusive proof of the need for this blog.


As many will already know, this isn’t the first time something totally insane like this has happened. For instance, the USSR hosted the 1980 summer olympics (America boycotted them) and Nazi Germany hosted the games in 1936. In less than ten years thereafter, Nazi Germany ceased to exist. Will we be as lucky where Putin’s KGB Russia is concerned?

When Russian athletes win medals at Sochi (if they find any snow and ice), the music of the national anthem of the USSR will play to honor them. Perhaps by then Russia will even have revived the Soviet flag to fly above them. So we’ll get to see Russia in its full neo-Soviet glory, just the way we saw Nazi Germany.

All this presents us with a great opportunity. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that the Putin administration actually even wanted the games to occur on Russian soil, although it’s possible that it is so drunk on power that it actually does. How much better would it have been if the games were denied, so the Kremlin could have claimed proof of Western hatred of Russia. That’s going to be a much harder argument to make now, when for instance Russia tries to block defensive missiles in Europe. Then on top of that, in 2014 the world’s journalists will swarm over Russia, dredging up every bit of horror from the Katyn massacre to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Every human rights and opposition political group under the sun will have an instant international platform to criticize Russia, and institutions like La Russophobe will have a field day. Right now, most of the time, the world just gives a giant collective Y-A-W-N when it hears about Russia, but in 2014 at least for a few weeks the world will be forced to train its cameras on Russia and see it for what it is. It won’t like the picture, not one little bit. Quite possibly, dictator Putin will have returned to power in 2012 with a new seven-year term, expecting to rule the country until at least 2026.
Less than 10 years after the USSR hosted the summer games, it ceased to exist. Perhaps that is a wonderful harbinger for Putin’s Russia as well. So bring on the Sochi games of 2014! The opportunity to galvanize a boycott movement alone will be worth its wait in gold. La Russophobe congratulates the IOC on its brilliant decision!

The Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Final Fiasco?

Everyting old is new again. And we do mean everything.

By an extremely narrow margin, the International Olympic Committee has voted to hold the 2014 Olympic games in the Russian city of Sochi. It’s a brilliant decision, for many reasons.

First of all, Sochi is famous for warm, sandy beaches and palm trees, which will come in quite handy in hosting the winter olympiad. After all, if a country is going to hold an olympics, why not hold it in the most southern locality possible! Miami Florida in 2028!

Second, the games will take place right in the back yard of the Chechen terrorists, literally walking distance from their strongholds in the mountains, becoming an irresistible target for violence and bloodshed such as the world has never before seen at an olympics. Though the Kremlin won’t be able to stop this violence (heaven only knows how many Beslans and Dubrovkas will occur), it will of course conveniently justify yet another massive round of crackdowns on Russia’s already oppressed population.

Meanwhile, the IOC is helping Russia to cover up it’s gross pattern of human rights abuses in the region, condemned by every human rights organization under the sun including, on many occasions, in official rulings of the European Court for Human Rights (the most recent example of which appears in another of today’s posts, below).


At the same time, Russia will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Sochi, already a playground for Russia’s rich and famous that doesn’t need investment, whilst the rest of the country continues to languish in extreme poverty . . .


. . . and Russia’s crude, barbaric xenophobia will have a chance to consume dozens of dark-skinned athletes and fans from around the world if they are foolish enough to step outside their heavily guarded hotel rooms.

All that is to say nothing, of course, about the possiblity that Russia simply won’t be able to meet its basic obligations to build a suitable facility due to corruption and general incompetence, features of Russian life with which every Russian visitor is well acquainted, leaving Russia humiliated as having hosted (or even failed to host) the worst olympics in history. What if the price of oil drops? What if Vladimir Putin has a heart attack? The number of ways this could go horribly wrong for Russia are uncountable.

And it’s to say nothing of the possibility of a shooting war breaking out between Russia and any one of a number of its neighbors, as the piece below from the Wall Street Journal on the Kodori attack on Georgia makes clear.

Neither Austria nor Korea, Russia’s two rivals for the 2014 games, have been convicted of human rights violations in the ECHR, neither is fighting an ongoing war of imperialism with a breakway province, and both are far more economically advanced and progressive than Russia. Just as Russia doesn’t belong by any objective measure on the G-8 but sits there anyway, it simply isn’t qualified to host an olympics. The fact that Russia maintains these possibilities despite obvious reality is conclusive proof of the need for this blog.


As many will already know, this isn’t the first time something totally insane like this has happened. For instance, the USSR hosted the 1980 summer olympics (America boycotted them) and Nazi Germany hosted the games in 1936. In less than ten years thereafter, Nazi Germany ceased to exist. Will we be as lucky where Putin’s KGB Russia is concerned?

When Russian athletes win medals at Sochi (if they find any snow and ice), the music of the national anthem of the USSR will play to honor them. Perhaps by then Russia will even have revived the Soviet flag to fly above them. So we’ll get to see Russia in its full neo-Soviet glory, just the way we saw Nazi Germany.

All this presents us with a great opportunity. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that the Putin administration actually even wanted the games to occur on Russian soil, although it’s possible that it is so drunk on power that it actually does. How much better would it have been if the games were denied, so the Kremlin could have claimed proof of Western hatred of Russia. That’s going to be a much harder argument to make now, when for instance Russia tries to block defensive missiles in Europe. Then on top of that, in 2014 the world’s journalists will swarm over Russia, dredging up every bit of horror from the Katyn massacre to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Every human rights and opposition political group under the sun will have an instant international platform to criticize Russia, and institutions like La Russophobe will have a field day. Right now, most of the time, the world just gives a giant collective Y-A-W-N when it hears about Russia, but in 2014 at least for a few weeks the world will be forced to train its cameras on Russia and see it for what it is. It won’t like the picture, not one little bit. Quite possibly, dictator Putin will have returned to power in 2012 with a new seven-year term, expecting to rule the country until at least 2026.
Less than 10 years after the USSR hosted the summer games, it ceased to exist. Perhaps that is a wonderful harbinger for Putin’s Russia as well. So bring on the Sochi games of 2014! The opportunity to galvanize a boycott movement alone will be worth its wait in gold. La Russophobe congratulates the IOC on its brilliant decision!

The Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Final Fiasco?

Everyting old is new again. And we do mean everything.

By an extremely narrow margin, the International Olympic Committee has voted to hold the 2014 Olympic games in the Russian city of Sochi. It’s a brilliant decision, for many reasons.

First of all, Sochi is famous for warm, sandy beaches and palm trees, which will come in quite handy in hosting the winter olympiad. After all, if a country is going to hold an olympics, why not hold it in the most southern locality possible! Miami Florida in 2028!

Second, the games will take place right in the back yard of the Chechen terrorists, literally walking distance from their strongholds in the mountains, becoming an irresistible target for violence and bloodshed such as the world has never before seen at an olympics. Though the Kremlin won’t be able to stop this violence (heaven only knows how many Beslans and Dubrovkas will occur), it will of course conveniently justify yet another massive round of crackdowns on Russia’s already oppressed population.

Meanwhile, the IOC is helping Russia to cover up it’s gross pattern of human rights abuses in the region, condemned by every human rights organization under the sun including, on many occasions, in official rulings of the European Court for Human Rights (the most recent example of which appears in another of today’s posts, below).


At the same time, Russia will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Sochi, already a playground for Russia’s rich and famous that doesn’t need investment, whilst the rest of the country continues to languish in extreme poverty . . .


. . . and Russia’s crude, barbaric xenophobia will have a chance to consume dozens of dark-skinned athletes and fans from around the world if they are foolish enough to step outside their heavily guarded hotel rooms.

All that is to say nothing, of course, about the possiblity that Russia simply won’t be able to meet its basic obligations to build a suitable facility due to corruption and general incompetence, features of Russian life with which every Russian visitor is well acquainted, leaving Russia humiliated as having hosted (or even failed to host) the worst olympics in history. What if the price of oil drops? What if Vladimir Putin has a heart attack? The number of ways this could go horribly wrong for Russia are uncountable.

And it’s to say nothing of the possibility of a shooting war breaking out between Russia and any one of a number of its neighbors, as the piece below from the Wall Street Journal on the Kodori attack on Georgia makes clear.

Neither Austria nor Korea, Russia’s two rivals for the 2014 games, have been convicted of human rights violations in the ECHR, neither is fighting an ongoing war of imperialism with a breakway province, and both are far more economically advanced and progressive than Russia. Just as Russia doesn’t belong by any objective measure on the G-8 but sits there anyway, it simply isn’t qualified to host an olympics. The fact that Russia maintains these possibilities despite obvious reality is conclusive proof of the need for this blog.


As many will already know, this isn’t the first time something totally insane like this has happened. For instance, the USSR hosted the 1980 summer olympics (America boycotted them) and Nazi Germany hosted the games in 1936. In less than ten years thereafter, Nazi Germany ceased to exist. Will we be as lucky where Putin’s KGB Russia is concerned?

When Russian athletes win medals at Sochi (if they find any snow and ice), the music of the national anthem of the USSR will play to honor them. Perhaps by then Russia will even have revived the Soviet flag to fly above them. So we’ll get to see Russia in its full neo-Soviet glory, just the way we saw Nazi Germany.

All this presents us with a great opportunity. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that the Putin administration actually even wanted the games to occur on Russian soil, although it’s possible that it is so drunk on power that it actually does. How much better would it have been if the games were denied, so the Kremlin could have claimed proof of Western hatred of Russia. That’s going to be a much harder argument to make now, when for instance Russia tries to block defensive missiles in Europe. Then on top of that, in 2014 the world’s journalists will swarm over Russia, dredging up every bit of horror from the Katyn massacre to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Every human rights and opposition political group under the sun will have an instant international platform to criticize Russia, and institutions like La Russophobe will have a field day. Right now, most of the time, the world just gives a giant collective Y-A-W-N when it hears about Russia, but in 2014 at least for a few weeks the world will be forced to train its cameras on Russia and see it for what it is. It won’t like the picture, not one little bit. Quite possibly, dictator Putin will have returned to power in 2012 with a new seven-year term, expecting to rule the country until at least 2026.
Less than 10 years after the USSR hosted the summer games, it ceased to exist. Perhaps that is a wonderful harbinger for Putin’s Russia as well. So bring on the Sochi games of 2014! The opportunity to galvanize a boycott movement alone will be worth its wait in gold. La Russophobe congratulates the IOC on its brilliant decision!

More on the Kodori Attack by Russia on Georgia

The Wall Street Journal reports:

On the night of March 11, villagers in the Republic of Georgia’s mountainous Kodori valley say they heard the distinctive “thwack, thwack, thwack” of low-flying helicopters.

The choppers hovered in darkness for almost two hours, coordinating a ground-and-air attack on three settlements, according to more than 50 witnesses interviewed by United Nations-led investigators. Minutes before they left, a guided missile designed to be fired by helicopters struck a Georgian government building.

No one was killed in the attacks, which were little-noted in the West at the time. But four months later, they look set to cause waves on a global stage as the U.N.-led probe issues a final report on the incident as early as this week. The Wall Street Journal has seen two preliminary reports.

Georgia accuses Russia of authoring the attack in an effort to intimidate the former Soviet republic or bait it into a military response. The two countries have been at sharp odds over Georgia’s efforts to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and to reclaim Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two separatist areas of Georgia under protection of Russian peacekeeping forces.

Georgia, a strategically important country on Russia’s southern border, hopes to bring the matter to the U.N. Security Council in New York. Moscow, which sees NATO expansion as an attempt to contain Russian influence over former Soviet republics, has imposed trade and transport embargoes on Georgia. Russia denies involvement in the March attack and accuses Georgia of orchestrating it in order to create an international incident, a charge Georgian officials reject.

The final report has to be approved by experts from both Russia and Georgia and is likely to reflect the politically sensitive nature of the debate. People familiar with the matter say Russia and Georgia are haggling over one key point: Russia is pushing to include language that indicates there is no hard evidence to conclude that helicopters were even in the area that night, despite the witness testimony.

The sheer sophistication of a helicopter attack in high mountain passes at night would point to Russian authorship. Its military is the only one in the region known to have the equipment and training needed to pull it off. If Russia’s involvement is ultimately confirmed, the attack would amount to an extraordinary military strike on a neighboring state.

“If Russia thinks it can bomb Georgian territory and get away with it, that’s dangerous not just for Georgia but for all its neighbors — for Ukraine, for Azerbaijan, for the Baltic states,” Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said in an interview.

If the report concludes there isn’t enough evidence to say helicopters were present, it will leave open the possibility that Georgia attacked itself in an elaborate hoax designed to smear its neighbor. Russia argues that Georgia is trying to gain sympathy for its efforts to reclaim Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“We don’t know if there were any helicopters, but we do know that there could not have been any helicopters from Russia,” said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Observers have noticed lots of actions of a provocative nature from the Georgian side.”

At the heart of the incident in Kodori lie regional politics, history and a looming decision to grant independence to Kosovo, the separatist province of Serbia that in the 1990s suffered an attempt at ethnic cleansing by troops loyal to former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Like Kosovo, Abhkazia seeks independence. The separatist region lies within Georgia, but most residents have Russian passports, are protected by Russian peacekeepers, speak Russian and spend Russian rubles. The region borders Russia along the Caucasus Mountains.

Russia says if the West recognizes Kosovo as independent — something Moscow vehemently opposes and Washington supports — that will set a precedent for other separatist enclaves such as Abkhazia.

Last summer, Georgia installed its own parallel Abkhaz government in the Kodori valley and renamed it Upper Abkhazia, infuriating separatist leaders in the regional capital, Sukhumi.

Abkhaz officials say they have a legitimate claim to independence. When the Soviet Union was formed, Moscow made it a republic, like Georgia. But in 1931, Josef Stalin — himself a Georgian — folded Abkhazia into Georgia.

By 1989, the last full census, ethnic Abkhaz made up 18% of the territory’s population. When the Abkhaz sought to break away in the early 1990s, Georgia sent in troops who committed atrocities that still rankle deeply in Abkhazia. In the war that followed, the Abkhaz drove out 250,000 Georgian civilians, with help from Chechen and other volunteers from Russia, halving the territory’s population and committing atrocities of their own.

“These are ethnic cleansers,” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said of the Abkhaz leadership in an interview. Under the pro-Western Mr. Saakashvili, Georgia has pushed back.

Last July, special forces from the Georgian police seized control of the Kodori gorge from the Georgian warlord who for years had run the valley as a personal fiefdom. The seizure enabled U.N. monitors and Russian peacekeepers to patrol the valley for the first time since 2003, when several U.N. personnel were kidnapped in Kodori. But it also broke a cease-fire agreement, under which Kodori was supposed to be demilitarized.

“Their aim was to take the territory and turn it into a bridgehead” for a future attack on Abkhazia, says Sergei Shamba, the pro-Russian territory’s de facto foreign minister. “We will not let them live in peace there….When we have no more diplomatic tools, we will resolve this by force.”

Georgian officials insist they don’t want a conflict, and U.N. inspectors have found no heavy weaponry in the valley. But with Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the possibility looming that Moscow may recognize the two territories if the West recognizes Kosovo, Georgian leaders are getting increasingly active, and creative, in their efforts to win hearts and minds in the territories.

In Kodori, South Ossetia and nearby, Georgia is building discos, hotels, movie theaters, light shows, schools and hospitals to entice the impoverished Abkhaz and South Ossetians back. Since Georgian police overran the Kodori gorge last July, Malkhaz Akishbaia, the 35-year-old head of Georgia’s Abkhaz government, has built two new schools, a bright-pink administration building, a bank, a movie theater and two small hydroelectric plants to provide the local population with power. He has renovated and equipped the local hospital. Ski lifts and a skating rink are planned — by presidential decree.

Georgian officials say the March 11 attacks were a raw demonstration of Russian power.

The first people who say they heard helicopters, at around 9:10 p.m. on March 11, were villagers at the northern edge of the valley. They said they heard the choppers come from the north (where Russia lies) and go south, toward the villages of Chkalta and Adjara. That would indicate the helicopters entered the gorge through passes from Russia — or were already hidden in the valley.

After the attack, Georgia submitted its radar records to U.N. investigators. These showed no flights in the area, indicating that any helicopters must have flown to Kodori below radar, shielded by mountain passes. The U.N. also asked Russia to provide its radar logs.

The Russian Defense Ministry response, seen by The Wall Street Journal, wasn’t sent until May 25. It said the military records “only flights by aviation of the Russian armed forces.” As there were no Russian military flights that night in the area, the letter said, there were no records to provide.

Yet Another Conviction for Russia in the ECHR

Serbiana reports:

The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday found Russian authorities responsible for the presumed killing of a former speaker of the Chechen parliament in 2000, and ordered Moscow to pay his mother €40,000 (US$54,472) in damages.

In another in a long series of rulings against Russia in cases concerning the Chechen wars, the court also found the Russian agents and government violated Europe’s human rights convention on four other counts, including the failure to properly investigate the kidnapping and presumed death of Ruslan Alikhadzhiyev, speaker of Chechnya’s parliament from 1997-99. The convention is legally binding on all 47 members of the Council of Europe, including Russia.

Alikhadzhiyev was arrested in his house in Shali, Chechnya, by a large group of camouflaged, armed men on May 17, 2000, in an operation supported by four four-wheel drive vehicles and two helicopters. Five other people were detained in the high-profile sweep against separatists.

Alikhadzhiyev, who had four small children, was blindfolded and taken to a nearby location, which is where he was last seen, the court said. No one has been charged with any crime, even though Alikhadzhiyev never reappeared, it said.

“The Court considered it had been established beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Alikhadzhiyev was presumed dead following his detention by state servicemen,” the court said, adding that the state did not submit any plausible explanation as to what had happened to him and that “his death could be attributed to the state.”

Alikhadzhiyev led the Chechen parliament under Aslan Maskhadov, the separatist leader who was president of the region during its period of de-facto independence in the mid-1990s. Maskhadov was killed in 2005.

Russia has three months to appeal. Dozens of similar cases are pending before the Strasbourg court. Moscow has been ordered by the Strasbourg court to pay hundreds of thousands of euros to victims of the Chechen wars.

Chechnya has been torn by two wars pitting Russian forces and their local allies against the rebels. A Moscow-backed government is in power and large-scale battles are now infrequent, but fighting persists.

An estimated 100,000 civilians, soldiers and insurgents have died in Chechnya since 1994. Human rights groups have also reported mass disappearances, blaming them on pro-Moscow Chechen security forces and Russian troops.

Yet Another Russian/Soviet Mass Murder Site in Afghanistan Discovered


The BBC reports:

An underground prison containing hundreds of bodies has been discovered in Afghanistan. The prison, a former military barracks on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul, dates from the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, officials say. A senior police officer in Kabul says that many of the bodies were found blindfolded with arms tied. The find was revealed by a 70-year-old Afghan who worked for the Russians and only recently returned to the country. There has been no immediate response from Russia to the news of the find. “This is a big mass grave from the Russian days,” police chief Gen Ali Shah Paktiwal told the BBC, adding that there were hundreds of dead bodies inside. He said the base, on the northern outskirts of Kabul, belonged to the communist defence ministry. “There are at least 15 rooms full of dead bodies,” he said, adding that as the base was large there could be further rooms yet to be discovered underground. Many of the victims’ remains were found with rope or cloth around their eyes and hands, suggesting they had been blindfolded and bound. The old man who led police to the site of the grave is reported to have told police that he had seen people killed by firing squad at the barracks. The underground prison is the second Soviet-era mass grave to be found near the capital. In 2006, a grave was discovered by Nato-led forces near the capital’s notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison.

July 5, 2007 — Contents

THURSDAY JULY 5 CONTENTS


(1) One Graphic is Worth a Thousand Screams

(2) Winning Lawsuits the Old-Fashioned Way

(3) The Most Trusted Politicians in Russia

(4) Piontovsky on the Lobster Summmit

(5) Russophile Bagman Jarvik Drops a Clanger

(6) Annals of Shamapova

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