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South Ossetian Leader Rejects Opposition Criticism


South Ossetia's Eduard Kokoity sees no problems.

South Ossetia's Eduard Kokoity sees no problems.

In an interview on February 22 with RFE/RL's Echo of the Caucasus, Eduard Kokoity downplayed reports of mounting political tensions in South Ossetia.

On February 20, the Russian news agency Regnum carried a statement by the Coordinating Council of Social and Political Organizations of South Ossetia warning that tensions within the unrecognized republic are increasing and could lead to an armed conflict. Kokoity told RFE/RL that while domestic political opposition exists in South Ossetia, that statement was the work of "a group of disgruntled former officials" who proved unable to discharge their responsibilities, and who are currently based in Russia.

Kokoity similarly dismissed as untrue opposition allegations that there has been virtually no progress in rebuilding infrastructure destroyed during the August 2008 war, and that funds allocated for reconstruction by the Russian government have been embezzled. Residents of Tskhinvali have repeatedly taken to the streets to protest the government's failure to provide them with adequate housing. He told RFE/RL that reconstruction is under way, although not proceeding as fast as one might hope.

On February 2, Kokoity met with the heads of construction firms engaged in rebuilding and told them that there are unspecified "problems" on every single construction site. He warned that further funding for reconstruction is contingent on the swift completion of work already started. He told RFE/RL on February 22 that Russia's Audit Chamber will very soon send a team to South Ossetia to assess how money allocated for reconstruction has been spent and thus dispel rumors of embezzlement.

Kokoity refused to comment on a separate Regnum report that Vadim Brovtsev, the Chelyabinsk businessman whom Kokoity named last summer as prime minister, is about to resign. Kokoity characterized Brovtsev as "an excellent professional" with whom he has a good working relationship.

Asked about the arrest last week of Fatima Margiyeva, editor of the independent newspaper "Pozitsiya," Kokoity replied that it is "ridiculous to characterize such people as human rights activists." He went on to accuse her of pocketing funds he had allocated for a club for student intellectuals and of other violations of the law. Margiyeva has not, however, been charged with any financial misdemeanor, but with illegal possession of arms. She rejects that charge as politically motivated.

Kokoity said civil society in South Ossetia is "solid and serious," and pledged to continue supporting the republic's NGOs, whether or not they support his leadership.

Kokoity also implicitly ruled out the possibility of South Ossetia merging with the neighboring Republic of North Ossetia-Alania and thus becoming a Russian Federation subject. By contrast, last August, he declined to exclude the possibility of South Ossetia becoming part of the Russian Federation.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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