Moscow Warns Tbilisi

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 22

Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, which had expressed some moderately phrased objections to Georgia’s anti-crime measures in South Ossetia on May 31, (see EMD, June 1) reverted to its familiar style yesterday. Two communiqués in rapid succession described Georgia’s actions as “provocations” — a serious accusation in Moscow’s Soviet-bequeathed political and diplomatic terminology. The ministry warned that the “Georgian side would bear full responsibility for the consequences of its actions, fraught with the risk of violence and bloodshed.”

The ministry accused Georgia of “destabilizing the situation,” asked it to rule out a repetition, and called for relegating all issues to discussion by the Joint Control Commission, which supervises the ceasefire in the so-called “Georgia-South Ossetia conflict zone.” This quadripartite body, includes Georgia, South Ossetia, Russia, and Russia’s republic of North Ossetia, but serves only to isolate Georgia and to frustrate any serious discussion of real problems.

The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry also seemed to indirectly criticize the US. The Ministry noted that Georgian troops, which were briefly sent on May 31 to reinforce Georgian police patrols, and remain stationed in the conflict zone, include some soldiers who graduated from the US-administered Train-and-Equip Program (TEP) for Georgian internal security forces. The Ministry claimed that using these soldiers for this mission is allegedly incompatible with the TEP’s anti-terrorist mandate. Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed these objections in a telephone call to Georgia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Salome Zurabishvili.

On June 1, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s wife, Dutch-born Sandra Roelofs, paid a pre-announced visit to the Tskhinvali Region (South Ossetia). Landing by helicopter and continuing the journey by car, Roelofs visited several Georgian villages, receiving a warm welcome from residents. The South Ossetian KGB (still so named) interrupted her journey, escorted her to the KGB building in Tskhinvali, and after a brief talk escorted her out of South Ossetia. Also yesterday, Georgian public radio inaugurated Ossetian-language news broadcasts beamed at South Ossetia (Imedi and Rustavi-2 Televisions, Prime-News, June 1).