Ossetia admits to Ethnic Cleansing in Georgia

Paul Goble reports that Ossetian leaders have admitted to systemmatic ethnic cleansing:

In an interview published in Kommersant, South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity said that his people and Russian forces behind them had driven the ethnic Georgians who had been living there out and would not allow them to return, although he said his government would investigate and punish cases of burning and looting. Kokoity’s words are a rare public acknowledgement by an official that he and the forces under his command or with whom he is working are engaging in what can only be called ethnic cleansing, a form of genocide.

Arguing that in most of what had been “Russian enclaves” in South Ossetia, there were no ethnic Georgians left by the time of the conflict, Kokoity said that “where they still remained, we, unlike the forces of Georgia offered them a corridor and gave the peaceful population the chance to leave.”
But however that might be, he added, “we do not intend to allow” them back because there are “more than 18,000 Ossetian refugees from Georgia” in North Ossetia. We need them to return to South Ossetia,” and apparently, to the places left vacant by the more than 23,000 ethnic Georgians who have been driven out of that region.

“Kommersant” added that there is evidence that “under the pretext” of fighting burning and looting, Kokoity is not only driving out ethnic Georgians but also persecuting his political opponents in the republic and anyone from the outside including some of Ingushetia that he believes constitute a threat.

Not surprisingly, the Georgians who have been forced to flee South Ossetia are furious, in the first instance at Tbilisi and then at the United States. On Wednesday night, some of the 23,000 who have fled to Tbilisi staged a demonstration to demand that Georgian and American officials pay attention to their problems.  Among the placards they carried in front of the country’s parliament building — pictures of which have been posted on the Georgian media website http://www.pressa.ge — was one which asked in despair “We were supposed to hope for the United States to do something? No? Our soldiers were in Iraq. Where is America now, where?”

Beyond the human tragedy the actions of Kokoity and his Russian military allies have inflicted on ethnic Georgians, his admission on will make it extremely difficult for Moscow to level genocide charges against Georgia, although it is possible that if both sides make that charge, some will tragically see them as cancelling each other out.  Already on Sunday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev directed the procuracy in Moscow to collect evidence of acts of genocide by Georgians in South Ossetia, and the investigative committee of that body has now assembled evidence about the murder of Russian citizens there.

In addition, Russian cultural officials said that Georgia should be charged with genocide because of what Moscow says are its destruction of cultural monuments of the Ossetian people in the past and during the current conflict, Kommersant reported in a roundup article yesterday . But Russia faces other problems as well if it continues to pursue this line of attack. First of all, much of the “evidence” Moscow has put forward to date has been shown to be false or at least highly exaggerated, something that raises broader questions about what Moscow is claiming about the Georgians.  Second, raising this issue will lead international human rights activists to ask, as Helsinki Group’s Aslambek Apayev has, why Moscow should get away with “double standards” because “because “before talking about genocide in Georgia and South Ossetia, the powers that be in Russia ought to remember Chechnya.”

 “If Moscow considers that [Georgian President Mihkiel] Saakashvili should stand before the Hague tribunal, then let it first send [to that court] Putin and his generals who are guilty in the mass murder of peaceful residents on the territory of the Chechen Republic. This does not mean that I justify the actions of the Georgian leadership … I am simply stating facts.”

“When the Russian media speak about South Ossetia, they constantly use terms like ‘genocide,’ ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘mass murder.’ But weren’t there similar and even worse actions in Chechnya? Why did not Russian investigators establish and turn over to the courts” those responsible for that?
And third, any such discussions will prompt many people in the North Caucasus itself to raise questions about Russian actions there that can be characterized as genocide, a possibility that will only add to interethnic tensions there and make that region even more ungovernable from Moscow’s point of view.

Activists in Ingushetiya yesterday indicated that that they were prepared to do just that, especially given what they say is Moscow’s “PR” campaign about “genocide” in South Ossetia. And they said they would support calls for investigating such crimes in all such conflicts since 1991. Consequently, while raising such charges may play well for Moscow in the Russian and international media, there is every chance that if the Russian authorities follow through they are likely to find them boomeranging on them in ways that may cause the Kremlin far more difficulties than leaving this issue alone.

3 responses to “Ossetia admits to Ethnic Cleansing in Georgia

  1. Not surprising coming from a man who gives most televised speeches in military fatigues. He’s just like any bandit in the caucasus fund with military hardware, vodka, and plate-less Mercedes.

  2. Truth about war in Ossetia that is overlooked by BBC and CNN

    At 7 p.m. on August 8, the day when Olympics started, worldwide community heard from CNN and BBC news that Russian tanks invaded Georgia and that Russia started war with Georgia.

    That the war had begun 16 hours earlier by Georgian president Sukashvili’s order these media preferred to pass over in silence.

    But you have the right to know truth. That’s how this really happened:

    According to old tradition of Olympic Games’ eve everyone was looking for peace and quiet. On August 7, Georgian and South Ossetian officials agreed to observe a ceasefire and hold debates in attempt to solve their long-term conflict peacefully.

    August 8, 00:06
    Just hours later, six minutes past midnight on August 8, inhabitants of Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, peacefully sleeping in their beds, heard dreadful whizz of incoming rockets. The hell followed soon… Without any declaration Georgian forces launched massive shelling of Tskhinvali with all available means, including heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems GRAD. In this massacre, in just several hours, the whole city was ruined: 2,000 human lives wasted and 85% of all buildings demolished. Georgian military expedition, called “Clean field”, yielded its first fruits…

    August 8, 03:00
    Georgian army occupied five Ossetian villages, burning them to ashes.

    August 8, 03:30
    Georgian tanks started attack on Tskhinvali. Ossetian militia stood up to the enemy but could not keep back 30-times outnumbering Georgian forces. Many basements where Ossetins tried to escape shelling were showered with grenades. At the very same time, Georgian “peacekeepers”, serving in South Ossetia, launched unexampled attack on their yesterday’s colleagues, Russian peacekeepers, managing to kill at least 10 of them.

    August 8, 04:33
    Russia called for UN Security Council meeting to put a stop to Georgian military aggression and seize fire. No decision was delivered at neither this nor several following meetings.

    August 8, 09:00
    Russian Prime Minister Putin informed President Bush that Georgia launched war against Ossetia. Mr. Bush answered that “nobody wanted this war”.

    Ossetia was praying for help. It was already obvious that “clean field” meant nothing else but ethnical cleansing. In these circumstances, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russia would defend Russian citizens who constitute 90% of South Ossetia population.

    August 8, 16:00
    Russian forces overstepped mountain pass and made their way toward perishing Ossetins. That was exactly the moment when CNN and BBC finally “noticed” the war and broadcasted their «Russians invaded Georgia» scenes. Sukashvili announced that Russia invaded Georgia and held back that he started this horrible bloodshed himself.

    Before midnight, Russian and Ossetian forces kicked aggressors out of Ossetian capital. Survived citizens started to leave basements to escape the city. In the next couple days around 30,000 refugees fled to Russia.

    Failed Georgian assault turned to informational blackout and devilish propaganda. It’s time when so much depends on your personal position! I believe that there will be journalists who can give objective picture of these events. I believe in people of peace who will regard an attempt of massive extermination of small nation as genocide (3% of South Ossetins and 0.3% of all Ossetins worldwide were killed in just one night on August 8; fascists have never achieved that efficiency in exterminating Jewish people even when Auschwitz and Treblinka were working at full capacity). I believe in a world community that will view Sukashvili’s inhuman orders as war crime and an outrage on humanity. I believe in you, thinking person, able to confront with facts, person who will not follow barefaced propaganda of politicized and deeply corrupt media, person able to recognize truth!

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