Russian Failure in Ossetia and Chechnya
Two reports last week highlighted the increasing humiliation Russia is experiencing in the Caucasus region.
First, Russia was left fuming with egg on its face when the Council of Europe adopted a draft resolution condemning barbarous Russian atrocities in Chechnya, and did so in the presence of infamous Chechen freedom fighter Akhmed Zakayev. Once again, Russians were forced to confront their government’s utter failure in foreign policy in Europe, and forced to face the shame of having their wanton criminal behavior in the Caucasus exposed before a slack-jawed world.
And then came the news that Ossetia has already been declared a failed state.
Yanukovich to Putin — Drop Dead!
“I have never recognized Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Kosovo as independent states. This is a violation of international laws and norms. According to international law, any violation of the territorial integrity of any state is forbidden.”
If you think that was the President of Georgia talking, or some other ardent Russophobe, think again. It was Russia’s so-called “friend” in Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich.
Oops! Just when the Russophile hoards were sure they had won a major victory in Ukraine with Yanukovich’s elevation, he bursts their bubble with a highly sharpened pin.
And let’s be perfectly clear: The President of Ukraine has called the Prime Minister of Russia an international criminal. His words might just as well have been spoken by Mikheil Saakashvili!
If even so-called “Russophile” Yanukovich has such a negative attitude towards Russian aggression against Georgia, then surely no more final condemnation of Putin’s barbaric policies could be imagined.
Paul Goble, blogging for the Moscow Times:
South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity’s efforts to make himself president for life has turned the territory into one “free from law,” discrediting his regime in the eyes of the people there, providing excuses for Belarus and other countries not to recognize him, and compromising Moscow’s ability to control the spending of Russian assistance there.
All these problems were highlighted last week when a group of Kokoity’s political opponents came to Moscow to lobby for Russian intervention to guarantee the legality of the May 31 elections and specifically calling on the Kremlin to oppose Kokoity’s plans to change the republic’s constitution so as to allow him to run for additional terms.
What are you hiding in Ossetia, Mr. Putin?
“There is, unfortunately, a silence and darkness with respect to the international monitors that has descended on South Ossetia. The solution is hardly to keep monitors out of South Ossetia. Russia has an obligation, since it controls this territory, to let in international observers.”
— U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried to reporters at a security conference in Helsinki, December 5th
Why is Vladimir Putin’s government refusing to allow international observers to view conditions in Ossetia? Is it afraid that observers would see horrific violation of human rights, pogroms being carried out against innocent ethnic Georgians to drive them from their homes and “cleanse” Ossetia of their presence?
And why, may we ask, is President-Elect Barack Obama silent about this outrage? Where is his professed concern about social justice and international law? As we reported earlier this week, Obama finally broke his silence on Georgia with an interview on Meet the Press, but his remarks were devoid of commentary on Russia’s current obstruction of inspectors and its attempt to annex Georgian territory. He merely condemned Russia’s military attack on Georgia proper, labeling the G-8 member a “bully.”
Putin’s Chechen Chickens, Roosting
With every day that passes it becomes more and more clear that the centerpiece of Vladimir Putin’s claim to fame, pacifying Chechnya, is all smoke and mirrors.
On November 2nd, a small bomb went off in Russia’s breakaway province of Ingushetia. When police responded in force, a larger explosion occurred and seven officers were injured. Once again, the Russians had fallen for the trap. The Times of India reported: “‘Many policemen resign. Why should they risk their lives for 200 dollars a month? Everyone is afraid,’ said an official who oversees finances at the regional Interior Ministry, speaking under condition of anonymity.”
Just days before, the Ingushetian rebels had forced the Putin regime to withdraw its handpicked puppet ruler of the region, Murat Zyazikov, and “spontaneous dancing broke out in the streets.” Vladimir Putin’s policies in the region have resulted in total failure, not only in terms of managing Ingushetia from within but also in terms of denying the rebels incentives to rise up based on Russia’s foreign policy. The Kremlin’s demand of freedom for Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgian rule is viewed in Ingushetia as a blank check to revolution. In a clear indication of this failure, Zyazikov is being replaced with a military dictator.
And we report today on a massive suicide bombing attack last week, perhaps Chechen-instigated, in the heart of Russia’s newly annexed province of Ossetia.
Though Putin claims to have pacified and rebuilt Chechnya, the Kremlin’s policy of denying foreign journalists the right to travel in the country without chaperones belies this claim. As Radio Free Europe reports: “Nine years and thousands of destroyed lives later, Chechnya remains a bleak and desolate place, its cemeteries filled with fresh graves, evidence of the war still visible amid the Potemkin villages hastily erected by the local strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, to impress the occasional visitor. ” In fact, not only has Chechnya itself not been resolved, it is now spreading the contagion of revolution throughout the region, most pointedly in Ingushetia.
The Moscow Times reports:
A female suicide bomber blew herself up near a busy downtown market in North Ossetia’s capital, Vladikavkaz, on Thursday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 40 others, authorities said. The bombing is the first terrorist attack targeting civilians since Dmitry Medvedev assumed the presidency six months ago and the first to involve a female suicide bomber since the 2004 school attack in Beslan, which is also in North Ossetia.
No one claimed immediate responsibility for Thursday’s blast. Security analysts said it bore the hallmarks of an attack by Chechen extremists.
Pavel Felgenhauer, writing in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor:
The withdrawal of Russian soldiers two weeks ago from the so-called “buffer security zones” around Georgia’s breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia did not stabilize the situation. The buffer zone around South Ossetia, occupied by Russian troops during the war with Georgia last August, became a lawless area looted by the Ossetian militia. In accordance with the EU-brokered ceasefire, the Russians eventually withdrew as EU observers moved in. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner praised Russia for fulfilling its obligation to withdraw from the buffer zones before October 10 (AFP, October 10).
As the Russian troops withdrew from the buffer zones, armed Georgian police moved in to establish law and order and allow the return of Georgian refugees who fled the fighting and occupation. As a result, today the Georgian police on the one side and the rebels and Russians on the other face off at firing distance along new separation lines in Ossetia and Abkhazia. Several hundred unarmed EU observers are deployed but only on the Georgian side. EU officials say that the observers have established good working relations with the Georgian police and hope they will be allowed in the future to extend operations into Ossetian and Abkhaz-controlled territory (Interfax, October 20).
The following two-part installment from the always-brilliant Paul Goble offers chilling details on the quagmire Russia has made for itself in Ossetia.
Part I: The Mess in Ossetia
Moscow’s unilateral recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia has shaken Russia’s ties to the United States and other Western countries and raised new questions about its relationship to the non-Russian republics and even some predominantly Russian regions inside the Russian Federation. But the last week has provided evidence that each of these breakaway republics is presenting Moscow with some problems that no one in the Russian government appears to have expected but ones that some Russian commentators are now beginning to discuss more or less openly.
On the one hand, South Ossetia’s Eduard Kokoity can’t seem to remain on message at least from Moscow’s point of view concerning what the final status of his republic should be. And on the other, Abkhazia’s Sergey Bagapsh came to power as head of an “orange” revolution Moscow opposed and is soon likely to behave just as independently as that origin would suggest. And consequently, in the words of one Moscow writer, the “paradise” Russian leaders thought they had achieved by the signing of friendship treaties two days ago is likely to prove “temporary” indeed, with each of these men and their states seeking to advance their interests by playing off one power off against another rather than simply following the dictates of Russia.