Georgians effectively blocked from homes, UN says


Associated Press

August 30, 2008 at 8:48 PM EDT

TBILISI, Georgia — Russian troops remaining in Georgian territory are effectively preventing Georgians from returning to their homes, a UN representative said Saturday.

Melita Sunjic, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner of Refugees in Georgia, said that although it was not clear if Russian soldiers were actually preventing refugees from returning, the warnings by the troops effectively block them.

“If they say ‘we can't guarantee your safety,' you don't go,” she told The Associated Press.

Some 2,000 refugees are at UNHCR camps in Gori, and possibly thousands of others are in the region, hoping to return to villages that are in the so-called “security zones” that Russia has claimed for itself on Georgian territory.

The zones are near the border with separatist South Ossetia, the disputed province at the heart of the conflict that has ruined Georgia-Russia ties and caused the biggest crisis in Moscow's relations with the West since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Fighting broke out Aug. 7 after Georgian forces launched a barrage on the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, hoping to retake control of the province. Russian forces poured in, pushed the Georgians out in a matter of days and then drove deep into Georgia proper.

On Saturday, Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the U.S. Senate's foreign relations committee, visited Gori to observe the distribution of U.S. food aid.

The United States has sent substantial aid to Georgia in the wake of the war, using naval ships and military aircraft. Russian officials raised speculation that the military involvement could indicate the United States was seeking to restore Georgia's armed forces, which had received massive military aid from Washington in recent years.

Asked whether the United States was considering new military aid, Sen. Corker said “these subjects are part of a longer and mid-term discussion” when Congress reconvenes in September.

Under a European Union-brokered ceasefire, both sides were to return their forces to pre-war positions, but Russia has interpreted one of the agreement's clauses as allowing it to set up four-mile deep security zones, which are now marked by Russian checkpoints.

Refugees coming into Georgia from those zones say they are being terrorized, beaten and robbed by South Ossetians.

Georgia has severed diplomatic ties with Moscow to protest the presence of Russian troops on its territory, saying as the West does that Russia is in violation of the EU agreement. Tbilisi announced Friday that diplomatic staff would leave Georgia's Moscow embassy on Saturday, though Georgian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Khatuna Iosana said they had not left as of 6:30 p.m. local time.

“We found ourselves in an awkward situation when a country militarily invading and occupying our country, then recognizing part of its territories, is trying to create a sense of normalcy” by maintaining diplomatic relations, Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said in Sweden earlier.

Russia condemned the diplomatic cutoff, which will require Georgia and Russia to negotiate through third countries if they negotiate at all. It makes for a sticky situation because Russia sees Western nations as biased in Georgia's favour. Georgia, which had pushed for a greater role for international organizations, could see it as advantage.

But it may bring little practical change, because there were few signs of any productive diplomacy even before the war.

Trade between Russia and Georgia is also minimal, following Russian bans in 2006 on Georgia's major exports – wine and mineral water – and other products. Only a fraction of foreign investment in Georgia comes from Russia, while a Russian ban on direct flights to and from Georgia was lifted this year but flights halted again as the war erupted.

Russia has faced isolation over its offensive in Georgia and its recognition of South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia. No other country has followed suit and recognized the regions' independence. The United States and Europe have condemned Russia's actions but are hard pressed to find an effective response.

Russia supplies the EU with about a third of its oil and about two-fifths of its natural gas. In an article published Sunday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said European nations should adopt a united energy policy to avoid becoming too dependent on Russia.

He said the EU nations should “use our collective bargaining power.”

“Without urgent action we risk sleepwalking into an energy dependence on less stable or reliable partners,” Mr. Brown wrote in The Observer newspaper.

Mr. Brown said he spoke with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev by telephone Saturday, and told the Russian leader “to expect a determined European response” to the crisis.

With EU leaders set to huddle Monday on how to deal with an increasingly assertive Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has angrily warned Europe not to do America's bidding and has said that Moscow does not fear Western sanctions.

Adding to the tension, a lawmaker in South Ossetia said Russia intends to eventually absorb the province at the centre of the five-day war.

South Ossetian parliamentary speaker Znaur Gassiyev said Friday that Russia will absorb South Ossetia within “several years” or even earlier. He said that position was “firmly stated” by both the province's leader, Eduard Kokoity, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in talks in Moscow earlier this week.

The statement stoking Georgian suspicion that Moscow's intent all along has been to annex the South Ossetia.

In Moscow, a Kremlin spokeswoman said Friday there was “no official information” on the talks.



Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre in the Globe and Mail

(before the censors removed it)

Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada wrote: AP = American Propaganda, Misha says "Western Media asking for trouble for NOT admitting Georgia to NATO.
Well, Condalisa Rice "claims" she warned Misha not to invade Sth Ossettia but, what does the USA do, send more aid, not even a reprimand, , Washington obviously tacitly approved a genocidal invasion, and started a war that cost thousands of lives.

WHO was the one person who can be held responsible? G.W. Bush could have prevented it with some straight talk but, he effectively gave Misha the go ahead, Bush needed an excuse, desperately needed to "to be able to talk tough" , the golden key to a rapid rise in political popularity that he could not say no to.

Bush is a flagrant war criminal and uses the entire western media to regurgitate Washingtons' lies and propaganda.

Its very interesting to read the news and the comments. By far, the comments provide factual back up, not posturing, not spin but facts that show Georgia started a genocidal war. Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada) wrote: A B, The South Ossetians and Ahakazians have been in wars with Georgians for many decades. The Georgian mad cap president Misha signed a peace deal, and broke it by massing 10,0000 plus troops at Gori and launching a massive full blown invasion that destroyed the capital of South Ossetia.
Putin called Bush, expecting him to exercise some control over his mad pitbull in Georgia. Bush FAILED to act, Russia still waited and the United States failed to act. Russia trusted the United States to do the honourable thing but honour was not part of their idea, mass murder was. That's not Russian agression.
If you want an example of Agression, just look at the American supply of arms including advanced stinger missiles to the Taliban to shoot down Russian aircraft who were, fighting the Taliban.
Then you have Bush's fabrication of evidence of weapons of mass destruction to "justify" and "invasion" of Iraq that gave NO thought to maintaining law and order after they invaded.

Russia, to its credit, set up policing to keep the factions apart, and you can see lots of video of Georgian police chatting away with Russian soldiers looking very relaxed. You wont' see American troops looking that relaxed in Iraq.

Washington has failed to deny that US military supported the Georgian invasion, CNN CENSORS any comments, any comment that does not agree with the official US government position is left permanently "awaiting approval" until long after the story no longer has an active link.
Any interview that does not please Washington on American TV is terminated with a "commercial break" that you don't see interfere with a pro government comment.
Its a very sick example of big brother in action, a big brother with the blood of thousands on its hands, unconvicted war criminals hiding behind their own absence of respect for lives of civilians and the Rule of international law. Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada) wrote: Quotes of Malcolm Fraser, Australian Prime Minister 1975 - 1983 ;
"America lost its way in the world"

"the United States has made mistake after mistake and made the world a more dangerous place"

"to declare an illegal war on Iraq"

"at the end of 2001, the Administration plotted, step by step to bypass the Geneva Convention, the torture convention, to free America to act as it wanted. The people participating, lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats are arguably guilty of serious war crimes."

"failure to deal with Russia from a sense of respect and recognition of Russia's traditional interests, "

"President George Bush tore up international treaties, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. His actions have, in fact, begun a new arms race."

"President Mikheil Saakashvili, who moved his troops into Ossetia, allegedly killing 2000 civilians within a matter of hours, broke an uneasy peace that had prevailed since the early 1990s."

"America's rearmament of Georgia's military forces, encouraged Saakashvili into believing he had American support."

"Sadly, the unthinking pursuit of American dominance without any real consideration of longer term consequences of actions has destroyed the reputation America had built up in the several decades after WWII."

Malcolm Fraser is to be commended as the first western former head of state for saying what is needed to be said.

Now, when do you think the western media (with the exception of the Globe of course) will cease regurgitating Washington propaganda?

You can read that article at