Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 72

Eduard Kokoiti

“Parliamentary” leaders and the “foreign ministers“ of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria met in Moscow on April 9 and in Sukhumi on April 10, respectively. By the participants’ explicit admission, the meetings were timed to the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) April 10 session on Abkhazia and appeared designed to pressure the UNSC into giving in to Russia at the session.

Moscow wants the UNSC to criticize Georgia in the upcoming resolution, to invite Abkhazia’s “foreign minister” to address UNSC members during the debate, and to initiate a direct dialog between the UNSC and Abkhazia. Unless the UNSC takes such steps in the direction of recognizing Abkhazia, the Russian side hints that it may pull the plug on the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), the six-month mandate of which expires in a few days. Russia had successfully bluffed that it might terminate UNOMIG in October 2006 to stampede most countries into approving an anti-Georgian resolution at that UNSC session (see EDM, October 17, 2006). Now Moscow is upping the ante. In addition to maintaining uncertainty about UNOMIG, it warns that Abkhazia might withdraw from UN-led political negotiations unless the Abkhaz “foreign minister” is allowed to speak even if informally to the UNSC.

The three “foreign ministers’” meeting in Sukhumi has added to the pressure on the UN, and may be followed immediately by a meeting of the three “presidents,” depending on the UNSC session’s outcome. The conclave’s officially declared goal is “to evaluate the advisability of continuing the peace process [on Abkhazia] under UN aegis.”

Abkhaz “foreign minister” Sergei Shamba unambiguously spelled this out in his opening speech. Charging that the UNSC “lacks objectivity,” “ignores the Abkhaz people’s right to self-determination,” and gives in to the United States in refusing to invite Abkhazia to the session, Shamba concluded, “The Abkhaz side is severely dissatisfied with the UNSC’s position. … If all this continues, the Abkhaz side may turn down the UN’s mediation [in negotiations] and may request Russia to be the mediator,” he warned (Interfax, April 10).

South Ossetian “foreign minister” Murat Jioyev took a similar swipe at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is involved within its meager possibilities in handling that conflict. The organization is not equidistant and has never invited South Ossetia to speak at OSCE permanent council sessions and year-end conferences, Jioyev charged at the Sukhumi meeting. In nearby Sochi, Russia, the visiting South Ossetian “president” Eduard Kokoiti declared that the United States, which opposes Abkhazia’s participation in the UNSC session, as well as other countries that ignore Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s position, “have lost the right to participate in the peace process” (Interfax, April 10).

To further inflame the atmosphere, the meeting in Sukhumi issued an appeal to international organizations, accusing Georgia and Moldova of having planned the “destruction” of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria and “genocide” against their populations. Only Russia’s intervention saved them from such a fate, ensured peace, and created conditions for negotiations, the document claims. On this fictitious basis it urges international organizations to adhere to the [Russia-designed] agreements signed during the early 1990s and retain the existing [Russia-dominated] peacekeeping and negotiation formats unchanged. The document asks international organizations to censure Georgia and Moldova for proposing changes to those formats (Regnum, April 9).

The “parliamentary” chairmen of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria appealed to the United Nations, the OSCE, and other international organizations in the same surrealistic vein. They accused Georgia and Moldova of having perpetrated “crimes against peace and humanity” in 1989-93 with a view “to physically exterminating or expelling the non-Georgian and non-Moldovan population.” The corollary to such outright inventions is that Russia’s military presence and “guarantees” to any settlement are indispensable.

The meetings in Moscow and Sukhumi showcased the apparatus headed by Modest Kolerov, head of the Russian Presidential Administration’s Department for Interregional and Cultural Ties, which coordinates the activities of pro-Moscow groups in a number of formerly Soviet-ruled countries and beyond. Kolerov’s department is also sponsoring international activities in pursuit of diplomatic recognition of the post-Soviet secessionist territories. Kolerov and Kremlin consultant Sergei Markov took part in the Moscow meeting, along with the “parliamentary” chairmen Yevgeny Shevchuk from Transnistria, Nugzar Ashuba from Abkhazia, and Tarzan Kokoyti from South Ossetia.

Those three territories formed an Inter-Parliamentary Assembly within the framework of a “Community for Democracy and the Rights of Peoples” in 2006 in Sukhumi. They went on to monitor and bless as “democratic” the referendums and elections held in Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia between September 2006 and March 2007, the main goal of which was to cement these territories’ secessions. Alexei Martynov, executive secretary and chief of staff of this Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, gave a report on such election monitoring, including visits by foreign observers shepherded by Kolerov’s network of organizations.

At the Sukhumi meeting, Transnistria’s “foreign minister” Valery Litskay reported that the group had recently begun holding meetings on a monthly basis; it had last met in March in Moscow, where Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov received them (see EDM, March 23). Litskay — almost certainly echoing Lavrov — defined the trio’s immediate task as preventing changes to the “peacekeeping” and negotiating formats and its general task as pursuing international diplomatic recognition. Russia is seeking to nudge the United Nations piecemeal in that direction at the ongoing UNSC session on Abkhazia.

(Regnum, Interfax, April 9-12)