Letters to the editor of the Moscow Times regarding the Georgia crisis. Note how bold it is for the MT to publish a letter accusing Russian dictator Vladmir Putin of being a criminal. The Kremlin has shown itself more than capable of launching a criminal prosecution against those who publish such statements. Perhaps one day the MT will be even bolder and publish an op-ed or, dare we dream, an actual editorial that makes the same charge.
(1) Isn’t Vladimir Putin a Criminal?
In August 1999, after being provoked by a raid on Dagestan by Chechen rebels, Russia started an air campaign against Chechnya, followed by a massive ground attack in the following months. As a result of that, the Chechen capital, Grozny, was completely destroyed, tens of thousands of Chechens died, and even more Chechens had to flee their country. Chechnya at the time was a separatist region. It was de facto independent and out of the Russian sphere of control. Legally, however, it remained an integral part of the sovereign Russian state.
Now turn the clock forward nine years. In August 2008, after being provoked by South Ossetian militias and by Russian peacekeepers, Georgia attacked South Ossetia with ground forces and Grad missiles. As a result of this, the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, was destroyed, an unknown number of South Ossetians were killed and tens of thousands of South Ossetians had to flee their homes. South Ossetia at the time was a separatist region — de facto independent and out of the Georgian sphere of control. Legally, however, it remained an integral part of the sovereign Georgian state.
If Russia considers Georgia’s actions illegal and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili a criminal, what about the Russian actions in Chechnya? Wouldn’t then-President Vladimir Putin be a criminal as well?
If Russia affirms the right of independence for South Ossetia, why doesn’t the same apply for Chechnya?
(2) Why aren’t Ossetians in Russia already?
I’m a little puzzled about something. Five years ago, 90 percent of South Ossetians and Abkhaz freely accepted Russian citizenship. By doing this, under Georgian law, they automatically lost their Georgian citizenship, which they probably were more than happy to be rid of. If I were to take the citizenship of a foreign country and give up my British citizenship, it would be only fair that I should be subject to immigration control in Britain and should have the right of residence only in the country of my new citizenship. Until this August, Russia reaffirmed, time and time again, that South Ossetia was part of Georgia, including in Security Council Resolution 1808. Why then did Russia not use the past five years to relocate its newly naturalized Russian citizens to its own territory?