Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Crisis In Georgia

Men carry the body of a man killed by a shell in the town of Gori on August 12

New Claims On Outbreak Of War

A number of recent media reports have questioned the long-standing Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively in its August war with Russia. However, evidence gathered by RFE/RL suggests that ethnic-Georgian villages came under heavy shell fire in the days leading up to and evening of August 7. More


The Morning After Georgia's 'Day Of Joy'

The EU has pledged unexpectedly generous amounts at a Georgia donors conference, sending a strong signal of support for Tbilisi. But if donors fail to follow through with their pledges, the results could be worse than sending no signal at all, says RFE/RL's David Kakabadze.
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Russia, Georgia Take War To Court

South Ossetians have been suing Georgia en masse at the European Court of Human Rights, while Georgia has filed an interstate complaint against Russia. It is the first time two Council of Europe members have taken their grievances from the battlefield to the courtroom, and the entire situation has put the court in a tight spot.
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Geneva Talks On Georgia Get Off To Rocky Start

The internationally sponsored talks on the aftermath of the August war between Georgia and Russia broke down at the opening session in Geneva as the result of disagreements over procedural issues.
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Russia Feigns Georgia Withdrawal

Russia has not withdrawn its troops from Georgia. It has not, as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev claimed on October 9, "fulfilled all obligations." And it has certainly not honored an EU-backed cease-fire deal to end hostilities between Moscow and Tbilisi.
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HRW Notes Brutality, Use Of Force In Georgia War

Two months ago, Russian and Georgian forces were engaged in a brief war over Georgia's pro-Russian breakaway region of South Ossetia. The armed conflict has since left hundreds of people dead and forced tens of thousands from their homes. RFE/RL Georgian Service correspondent Salome Asatiani spoke to Anna Neistat, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who investigated rights violations in the war-battered areas.
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Georgia: Russian Exit Not Quite Complete

Russia has for the most part pulled its troops out of so-called buffer zones around Abkhazia and South Ossetia as stipulated by an EU-brokered cease-fire. But as displaced persons warily return to their homes, Georgian officials say Russia is still violating the agreement by keeping troops inside the breakaway regions.
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Calamity In Georgian Conflict's Wake

Most locals have made their way home since the worst fighting ended in Georgia. But with their villages inside a Russian-declared buffer zone and winter fast approaching, thousands of Georgians are still stranded in makeshift shelters with little or no heat.
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'It's Going To Be Very, Very Difficult' For Georgia

EU monitors in Georgia say they have observed the "first open sign" of a promised Russian troop pullback by October 10. Ahead of that deadline, RFE/RL spoke with Denis Corboy, a former EU ambassador to Tbilisi, about the "great challenge" facing Georgia and the failures of Western diplomacy regarding Russia.
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Interview: Grim Picture Emerges Of Georgian Conflict Zone

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, recently completed a visit to Georgia to assess the humanitarian situation there. The trip included conversations with displaced persons and other victims of the conflict between Russia and Georgia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, first-hand access that few Westerners have seen since the outbreak of hostilities in early August. Hammarberg spoke with RFE/RL Georgian Service correspondent Nino Gelashvili at the Council of Europe offices in Tbilisi, describing flattened villages, aid efforts, and the seemingly dim prospects for many displaced persons to return to their homes.
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Pattern Emerges As Ossetia Burns

Eyewitnesses say South Ossetian militias have been systematically burning down Georgian villages in the separatist province. Georgian officials say it's an attempt to prevent ethnic Georgians from ever returning to their homes.
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The West's Two-Pronged Approach

The South Caucasus is again the focus of intense diplomacy. The European Union is launching an observer mission on October 1 in a bid to oust the remaining Russian troops from Georgian territory outside Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The United States, meanwhile, has dispatched Deputy Undersecretary of State John Negroponte to Azerbaijan -- a vital link in the oil and gas transit that bypasses Russia.
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Council Of Europe Showdown Expected Over Russia

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is meeting this week to decide whether to impose sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Georgia last month.
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OSCE Chairman Says Russia In 'Driving Seat'

The chairman of the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Finnish Foreign Alexander Stubb, met with Russian Foreign Sergei Lavrov at the United Nations on September 25. He spoke to RFE/RL correspondent Nikola Krastev about that meeting and the chances of resolving the conflict over South Ossetia.
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Why Did Russia Recognize Georgian Separatist Regions?

The Kremlin's decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia surprised many, even those who know Russia well. In an exclusive commentary for RFE/RL, former Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili examines the possible motives that led Moscow to make such a bold move.
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Could Russian Pressure Leave Georgia Cold?

As Georgia prepares for the start of winter in the wake of its military conflict with Russia, the country's ability to secure enough energy supplies to warm homes and power businesses remains in question.
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Burjanadze Asks, 'Was War With Russia Preventable?'

Former Georgian parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze says "the time to ask questions has come." She's calling for a probe into the events that led up to Georgia's short war with Russia to determine if the conflict could have been avoided. Burjanadze spoke in Tbilisi with Giorgi Gvakharia of RFE/RL's Georgian Service.
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Little Country Caught In Big-Stakes Game

With NATO sharply divided on Georgia's future membership prospects, the Tbilisi session was a reminder that Georgia is just a small country caught in the middle of a global, high-stakes game.
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Musicians Fight Culture War With Russia

The Russia-Georgia war was fought on more than the military front. Georgian artists and singers joined forces to produce songs and programs to encourage the nation and demoralize the enemy. But some have said their efforts go beyond simple patriotism to crass xenophobia.
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'Pasternak Couldn't Imagine What Vladimir Vladimirovich Imagines'

The consequences of recent events in Georgia have been both political and economic. After the deaths of innocent people, perhaps the most serious long-term impact of the war will be the rupture of long-standing cultural ties and the dull pain in the hearts of those whom we have gotten used to regarding as symbols of a Russian-Georgian culture. RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Sofia Kornienko spoke with Georgian composer Giya Kancheli.
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Is The Clock Ticking For Saakashvili?

Georgia's war with Russia gave President Mikheil Saakashvili a brief respite from his critics at home. But that wartime unity is fading -- and a Russian withdrawal may speed the process. Saakashvili survived a Russian invasion. Can he survive what comes next?
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Next In Line? Possible Successors

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili won the right to a five-year term in early presidential elections in January 2008. But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's recent likening of Saakashvili to a "political corpse" has fueled speculation the Georgian leader may serve only a fraction of that time. Who are his likely successors?
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Blogging From The Black Sea Port Of Poti

The port has reopened since it was bombarded and occupied by Russian forces earlier in the conflict. But troops remain and residents are on edge. RFE/RL's Georgian Service correspondent Tea Absaridze offers an insider's view.
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'A Simple, Yet Tragic, Question'

A key Georgian opposition figure visited the studios of RFE/RL's Georgian Service to discuss the world's diplomatic efforts in relation to the crisis in Georgia. Salome Zurabishvili, a former foreign minister and current chairwoman of the opposition party Georgia's Path, spoke with RFE/RL's Giorgi Gvakharia in Tbilisi.
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'Common Interests Prevail If Common Values Absent'

British diplomat Robert Cooper, considered one of Europe's preeminent policy strategists, says the EU has reached a state of "postmodern" development in which sovereignty is increasingly pooled -- as opposed to the United States, which remains a staunchly "modern" state, and to the "premodern" failed states with no functioning governments at all. He discussed the implications of the Russia-Georgia conflict for the EU and its future policy toward Russia.
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U.S. Hearing Casts Critical Eye On Russian 'Power Politics'

The U.S. Helsinki Commission has held a hearing that looked at the Russian invasion of Georgia and "the return of power politics." Among the questions legislators wanted to know were what leverage the United States has against Russia and whether Russia is sending a larger signal about its intentions toward other countries.
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Russia Must Do 'What It Has Said It Would Do'

In an exclusive interview, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker provides his insights into the crisis in Georgia. Speaking to RFE/RL correspondent Ahto Lobjakas, Volker says Russian troops in Georgia must ultimately withdraw and return to the lines held before fighting broke out last month. And he stresses that Abkhazia and South Ossetia must participate in upcoming talks on their future only as "parts of Georgian sovereign territory."
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'It's Clear We Have All Failed'

Ahead of a top EU diplomatic mission to Moscow, Peter Semneby, the bloc's special envoy to the South Caucasus, speaks exclusively to RFE/RL about options for influencing Russian actions in Georgia, and the silver lining in the bloc's failure to prevent the conflict.
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'Breakthrough' Or Wishful Thinking?

Turkey's president has arrived in Armenia for a visit that breaks down a historic barrier. It's part of a bold strategy to overcome long-standing conflicts that have hobbled the South Caucasus.
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U.S., Georgia Face 'Grim Realities' Going Forward

following its disastrous conflict with Russia, many Georgians feel betrayed by Washington, but the United States has seen its advice ignored and its assistance wasted, says former U.S. official E. Wayne Merry. Georgia today needs its U.S. patron as never before, but any future U.S. administration will certainly impose tighter controls and more conditions on its help.
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Moscow Presses Turkey

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to arrive in Ankara to discuss the presence of U.S. warships in the Black Sea, as well as Turkey's proposed Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Pact. Like many EU states, Turkey cannot afford to annoy Moscow and will look to advance dialogue in the Caucasus, while the Kremlin seeks a free hand in the region.
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Border Villages Being 'Russified'

Thousands of people living near the border dividing Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia fled the region following fighting between Georgian and Russian forces. Now, that flow is continuing amid reports of incursions by Ossetian militias and the "Russification" of villages.
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Caucasus Diary: Lurching From Crisis To Crisis

Arriving in Yerevan is a little like arriving in Las Vegas. The terrain, yellow desert and scrubs, is similar to Nevada, and the road from the airport is banked by neon-lit casinos. There is even a smaller version of the Las Vegas cowboy sign whose swinging arm directs gamblers to a particular casino.
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Does Russia Care What The West Thinks?

The Kremlin has spent years grooming its image in the West. But its latest actions have put current ties in peril. Has a resurgent Russia become indifferent to world opinion?
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SCO States Refuse To Back Russia Over Georgia

The member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization express grave concern over tensions in Georgia, but they fail to give Moscow clear support in its standoff with the West.
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Former NATO Official: No Military Threat Against Ukraine

Western officials have recently expressed concern that Ukraine could follow Georgia as the next target of Russian intervention. To assess Ukraine's security situation, RFE/RL spoke to Robert Hunter, the U.S. ambassador to NATO under President Bill Clinton (1993-98) and a current adviser with the RAND Corporation.
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How Russians Feel About Caucasus Conflict

How do Russians feel about the conflict in the Caucasus? Polls say up to two-thirds support the Kremlin's recent actions in Georgia, and that Tbilisi and Washington are to blame for escalating tensions in the region to a full-scale military conflict. But beyond simple statistics there lie more nuanced views of the unfolding events. RFE/RL spoke to professionals in Moscow and came away with a complicated mixture of pride, regret, and an overriding sense of historic inevitability.
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Lessons Of A Postmodern War

Seated in an open-air restaurant overlooking the Mtkvari River, enjoying a light lunch of mountain trout and Georgian salad, one finds it hard to believe that Russian tanks are only about 25 kilometers away -- indeed that they may be even closer by the time the Turkish coffee arrives.
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Georgia Woes Could Have Ripple Effect

Russia's recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia could have severe repercussions on peace efforts in other "frozen conflicts" areas where Moscow has strategic interests.
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West Berlin In The South Caucasus?

If a new Cold War is really revving up, then is Georgia turning into the new West Berlin, a little Western-protected enclave located on the tense front of a global struggle, constantly teetering between run-of-the-mill ordinariness and lurking Armageddon?
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Georgia Crisis: Views From Europe

The EU has condemned Russia's actions in Georgia, and called an emergency summit for September 1 to discuss how the bloc should react to the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia. But statements from European capitals have been more varied. Ahead of the September 1 summit, RFE/RL talked to experts in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Warsaw for their views on see the showdown with Russia and prospects for the EU to agree on a common strategy.
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Interview: A New Cold War?

A new era of East-West confrontation, a big chill, a Cold War-style face-off. Whatever epithet you choose, Russia has signaled by its actions in Georgia that shared interests with the West take second place to competitive interests. Edward Lucas, author of "The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces Both Russia and the West," spoke to RFE/RL about how the confrontation is taking shape.
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West Must Make Up For Mistakes On Russia

Western states must accept that they have ignored Russia for too long and propose a constructive international agenda to remedy this miscalculation.
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Hope, Despair On Streets Of Georgia's Capital

Some in Tbilisi argue that by pushing things this far, Moscow is baring its intentions for all the world to see -- and in the process is waking up the West and the rest of the international community. Others saw Medvedev's announcement as proof that Moscow is intent on subjugating Georgia once and for all -- whether the West likes it or not.
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Georgian Official Says West Can Make Russia Comply

In an exclusive interview, Georgian Reintegration Minster Temur Iakobashvili discusses the state of Russia's withdrawal from Georgian territory, warns of Moscow's intentions in the region and in both "Old" and "New" Europe, and suggests some of the West's options in its relationship with the Kremlin.
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Seven Theses Prompted By Russia-Georgia Conflict

Russia is now inclined not only to reject completely a path determined by Western values, but actually to deny that such values even exist.
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Vox Pop: Georgians React To Russia's Recognition

Following Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's formal recognition of the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on August 26, RFE/RL's Georgian Service took to the streets of the Georgian capital to gather residents' thoughts on the development.
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Diplomatic War Between Russia And West Looms

Russia's current goals in its dealings with the West, particularly the European Union, are the legitimization of its actions, the acknowledgement of the status quo (that is, the "independence" of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as Russian protectorates), and -- if possible -- the emergence of a split within the West over these issues.
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What's Next For South Ossetia And Abkhazia?

The Russian Constitution provides for admitting new territorial entities with the mutual consent of both parties, as well as for redrawing or abolishing borders between federation subjects.
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Kosovo, South Ossetia 'Different Where It Matters'

The Russian government has long highlighted the similarities between Kosovo and South Ossetia. But the two situations, while similar on some points, are fundamentally different where it matters: in their implications for the future of international relations.
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Russia-Georgia Border Scene Hints At Scripted Affair

An eyewitness says that before this month's armed conflict Russian journalists were being shuttled into South Ossetia and South Ossetian authorities were evacuating children north to Russia. Is this further evidence that Moscow was preparing an assault on Georgia in advance?
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Gori Blog: Town Again 'Full Of Life'

RFE/RL special correspondent Goga Aptsiauri is one of very few journalists to have been reporting from the town of Gori, in central Georgia, throughout its seizure by Russian forces.
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Do States Have Right To Defend Citizens Abroad?

Much has been written about the disproportionate use of force by the Russian armed forces and the violation of Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. However, the main premise of the Russian argument -- that Russia acted fully within its rights in defending its citizens in South Ossetia -- has gone unchallenged.
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Russia 'In Violation' Of UN Charter, Says Expert

Despite the cease-fire agreement between Russia and Georgia, many Russian troops remain in Georgia, where they have been destroying Georgia's military infrastructure. Moscow seems unconcerned that it is apparently violating the terms of the agreement it signed. But is it doing more than just breaking its promise?
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Ossetia Debacle Could Trigger Political Backlash

The devastating Russian military retaliation occasioned by President Mikheil Saakashvili's disastrous miscalculation in launching an offensive against South Ossetia initially impelled the entire nation to close ranks behind the beleaguered leadership. But some observers anticipate that the show of solidarity will be short-lived.
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Why Did Moscow Go Into Georgia?

Russia's new strategy in Georgia seems to be taking shape. Russian forces will remain in the separatist enclaves in the form of quasi-peacekeepers until Russia resolves the political questions of their status vis-a-vis the Russian Federation.
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The Real Balkan Lessons In Georgia Conflict

I learned an important lesson about war reporting in 1992, when I was covering the conflict in Sarajevo: pay attention to actions, not words, says Gordana Knezevic of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service.
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Conflict Leaves Georgia Picking Up Pieces

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict between Russia and Georgia are continuing. But Georgia faces another crisis too -- repairing an economy shattered by the war over South Ossetia and the Russian incursion into Georgia proper.
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New Peacekeepers For Abkhazia, Ossetia Hard To Find

Although the Georgian government has for several years actively lobbied the international community for support its demands that the Russian peacekeepers deployed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia be replaced by an international contingent, its arguments for doing so have been overwhelmingly political, rather than practical.
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Does U.S. Share Blame For Russia-Georgia Crisis?

Even as Russian officials suggest that U.S. support for Georgia's NATO bid led to the conflict there, debate in the United States has turned to whether Washington supported Tbilisi too much, or too little. But most agree that Moscow was bent upon punishing its neighbor and was only awaiting the opportunity.
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Captured Russian Pilots Leave Georgia Voicing Gratitude, Regret

Georgia and Russia have carried out their first prisoner swap since their conflict began. RFE/RL's Georgian Service correspondent Koba Liklikadze was there to see the exchange, and spoke to two Russian pilots who were part of the exchange shortly before their handover.
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'There's No Reason For Us To Be Fighting!'

RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Alan Tskhurbayev was able to travel from the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali to Gori on August 17 and spoke to some of the city's increasingly desperate residents -- Georgians, Ossetians, and Russians among them. This report was broadcast in Russia the following day.
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The West's Coalition Of The Impotent

The first step for the West to reestablish a realistic approach to the region is to acknowledge that in the short run, it is condemned to be a passive bystander, argues Jan Techau. He says the West also finally needs to frame a serious common strategy for constructive cooperation with Russia.
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Picture Of Ethnic Cleansing, Atrocities Slowly Emerges

As Moscow promises to begin withdrawing its troops, the way is opening for a clearer picture of what happened during the Russian Army's occupation of Georgia. But there is still no progress on opening a humanitarian corridor between South Ossetia and Georgia proper, and international access to South Ossetia remains tightly controlled.
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Did Russia Plan Its War In Georgia?

Russia says it entered Georgia to protect its citizens in South Ossetia from "ethnic cleansing." But there is mounting evidence that Moscow planned to invade Georgia months ago, and was simply waiting for the right moment to act.
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Russia May 'Intend To Cripple Georgian Economy'

International diplomatic activity appears to be making progress in the Russia-Georgia crisis, with Moscow saying it will begin pulling back its troops on August 18. But at the same time, sabotage of economic targets in Georgia -- and Russian forces seizing the area around the Inguri power plant -- is raising fears that Russia may be seeking to cripple Georgia's economy.
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'No Comparison' Between Kosovo And South Ossetia

In intervening in the conflict in the Georgian region of South Ossetia, Russia has asserted that its actions are justified in part on the legal precedent established by Kosovo's independence. But there is no "Kosovo precedent." Every international situation must be considered individually on the basis of its history and the circumstances of the conflict, and sought-for solutions must best meet the interests of the peoples involved.
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U.S. Official Calls Russian Actions 'Simply Stupid'

In a face-to-face interview with RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau chief, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza offers some of Washington's harshest criticism of Moscow since hostilities in Georgia began. But he also says the U.S. is committed to partnership with both sides.
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Some Things Change, Some Stay The Same

The combination of change and continuity is very much on display in three concentric circles around Georgia: first, in the former Soviet republics of which Georgia is a part; second, in the Russian Federation itself; and third, in Russia's place in the broader international system -- particularly its relations with Europe and the United States.
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Is Ukraine Prepared To Maintain Its Tough Stand Against Russia?

As the world watches the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi, many eyes have turned to Ukraine -- a country which, like Georgia, has struggled to break free of Russia's post-Soviet embrace.
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Georgian Events Have 'Changed Everything'

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves says the Georgia conflict has altered basic assumptions about Russia held since the collapse of communism, especially within the European Union.
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Watchdog: 'Fantastic Lies' Dominate Russian War Coverage

Oleg Panfilov, the director of the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations in Moscow, is currently in Tbilisi. Panfilov spoke to Dmitry Volchek of RFE/RL's Russian Service about the difficulties of reporting the conflict both inside and outside Georgia.
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Preliminary Conclusions From Georgia

The main achievement of the Russian leadership -- which the modern world could not (or did not want to) believe -- is the resurrection of fear of the "Russian bear." The world will long remember its fear and (albeit temporary) helplessness.
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'Hard Power' Changes Balance

The new order that Russia would like to see emerge from its war with Georgia is one in which Moscow polices a sphere of influence with military power at times and places of its choosing, the "international community" is relegated to issuing statements, and independent states across Eurasia are compelled to align their policies with Moscow's priorities.
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Russia Tells The World, 'Don't Tread On Me!'

One can only speculate why Georgia's president decided on August 7 to send his forces into South Ossetia. What happened after that looked like a page from the recent history of the Balkans, and has serious long-term implications for Russia, its neighbors, the European Union, and the United States.
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Spinning The Georgia Conflict In Russia

While Georgia presents the current armed conflict over South Ossetia and Abkhazia as a Russian invasion, Russian officials and state media are seeking to portray the events as a humanitarian catastrophe orchestrated by Tbilisi.
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West Fails To Deter Georgia From Playing Into Russian Hands

For years, Russia has made repeated attempts to provoke Georgia into taking military action against its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Behind that plan was a basic belief that a Georgian crackdown would discredit Tbilisi in the eyes of its Western backers and cast permanent doubts on its aspirations to join NATO and the European Union.
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The War At Home: Unity, Nationalism, And Bravado In Georgia

As Russia expands its offensive, Georgia is increasingly sensing that its very existence as an independent state is at risk. The result has been a surge in nationalism and overwhelming political unity as former enemies put aside their differences.
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Russia 'Punishing' Georgia For NATO Aspirations

The director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, David Kakabadze, was asked for his views on the current situation in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, where Russian and Georgian forces have been fighting since August 8.
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South Ossetia Sinks Into The Spin Zone

In the modern world, wars are won and lost as much in the minds of global public opinion as on the battlefield. Even as the fighting between Russia and Georgia has raged in South Ossetia and other parts of Georgia, a fierce -- if uneven -- media battle has also unfolded. Each side is eager to establish its narrative of the situation and unfolding events.
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Ossetia Crisis Could Be Russia's Chance To Defeat Siloviki

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has handed his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, a victory over the "siloviki" in Russia. And if Medvedev is able to take advantage of the fruits of this victory, the consequences will be significant not so much for Tbilisi as for Moscow.
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Video

Rally In Tbilisi

Leaders from Georgia, Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania speak to thousands gathered in the Georgian capital on August 12 Play
(Reuters video)

Video

Clashes In Georgia: Chronology

Review of the fighting in Georgia's breakaway regions, and the latest efforts to end the conflict. Play
(Reuters video)

Multimedia


Destruction In Gori

Photos by RFE/RL's Georgian Service correspondent of a town under attack

Factbox: South Ossetia

Status: The region broke away from Georgia in a 1991-92 war. A peacekeeping force with 500 peacekeepers each from Russia, Georgia, and North Ossetia monitors a 1992 truce.

Population: Approximately 70,000 (according to the 1989 census, about two-thirds Ossetian, one-third Georgian)

Capital: Tskhinvali

Languages: Ossetian, Georgian, Russian

Religion: Orthodox Christianity

South Ossetia: Timeline Of A Crisis