Saturday, August 9, 2008

War in South Ossetia - summary of developments

Here are some of the developments which I have learned so far:

1) Russia did admit that two of its military aircraft had been lost yesterday. This is rather baffling since the Georgian air defense capabilities are, according to Wikipedia, officially rather minimal:

* 15 SA-11
* 38 SA-3
* 18 SA-8
* 35 ZSU-23-4
* 15 S-60
* 40 MT-LB with towed ZU-23-2

2) Abkhazian authorities have declared that they are supporting the South Ossetians and have attacked Georgian forces massing along their border in particular in the Kodor gorge: "Over the past few days, the Georgian side has continued to increase the number of troops on the border with Abkhazia on the Inguri river," Interfax quoted Ruslan Kishmaria, an aide to separatist leader Sergei Bagapsh, as saying.

3) While both sides claim that they control Tskhinvali, local reports seem to confirm that the Georgian forces have been largely expelled from the South Ossetian capital. However, it also appears that Georgian forces are still fighting in areas adjacent to the city.

4) These are, according to Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, the reactions of CIS leaders to this conflict:

At a meeting with Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, on August 8, Putin said that "an appropriate assessment" of Georgia's action was needed from the CIS. Nazarbaev criticized Georgia for not raising the alarm before hostilities broke out. "I think the Georgian leadership has not done the right thing here, by not alerting anyone ahead of time, by not highlighting any rise in tensions. I think, in any case, that there is no alternative to a peaceful resolution of this issue," Nazarbaev said.

In Yerevan, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Gegham Gharibjanian called for a peaceful resolution but did not take a side. "Armenia is in the region where the conflict is at this moment and there is no doubt it worries us. We really hope that a solution will be found very quickly because at this moment it is true that no solution has been found in the area of security, but I think the problem must unequivocally be resolved by peaceful means," Gharibjanian said. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Tbilisi was prepared to assist any Armenian citizen in Georgia who wished to return to their home country.

In Belarus, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Vanshyna expressed deep concern over the mounting civilian casualties but, like Armenia, did not align her country with either the Russian-backed separatists or Georgia.

Among those CIS countries speaking out in support of Georgia has been Azerbaijan. Foreign Ministry spokesman Xazar Ibrahim told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that Georgia has "every right" to restore its territorial integrity to South Ossetia. "Azerbaijan supports Georgia's territorial integrity, and the South Ossetia conflict should be solved only [within] this framework. At the same time, Georgia has [every] right to restore its territorial integrity, provided by the norms and principles of international law, including the UN Charter. And therefore, all the steps taken by Georgia in this direction are in accordance with international law," Ibrahim said.

Vitalia Pavlicenco, the leader of Moldova's pro-Western, opposition National Liberty Party, told RFE/RL's Moldovan Service that his country must support Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, not Russia. He noted that Moldova is a member of GUAM, the regional organization of ex-Soviet states that also includes Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Iurie Rosca, the vice president of the Moldovan parliament, said Russia's action seemed aimed at Georgia's NATO aspirations. "These provocations are aimed to destroy Georgia's strategic plans to become a full-fledged member of the North Atlantic alliance in a few years," Rosca said.

Ukraine's acting foreign minister, Vladimir Handogy, who was meeting with the Russian charge d'affaires in Kyiv on August 8, also expressed his country's support of Georgia's territorial integrity. He said Ukraine is prepared to assist international efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution, and he urged Russia to not become a party to the conflict.

5) Georgian President Saakashvili declared a "state of war" in Georgia. He has requested that the Parliament approve a state of emergency in the entire country.

6) The Georgian naval base in Poti has been "destroyed" according to Georgian sources. The Georgian military base in Senaki has also been hit by Russian airstrikes.