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The Kremlin's telephone hasn't exactly been ringing off the hook with the world's leaders calling to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia. So far, only one categorical recognition from Chavez, and one "definitely-maybe" from Lukashenka, who said the "Kremlin had no other moral choice" but to recognize the breakaway regions.

In fact, earlier Belarus's ambassador to Russia, Vasil Dauhalyou, had told RIA Novosti that Minsk would soon declare recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. However, a couple of hours later the ambassador apparently asked that the RIA Novosti story be changed to water down the position.

Lukashenka also proposed that the independence issue be mulled over at a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization on September 5, in order to work out a "consolidated position" among the member states (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.)

Lukashenka's caution is understandable. His economy is almost entirely dependent on Russia and the loss of Moscow's economic support, namely cheap gas, could well mean his downfall. But he also has the West to think about, with all the recent talk that the sanctions on his regime could be lifted.

-- Luke Allnutt
Dpa reports on a "Der Spiegel" story set to appear on September 1 that claims the OSCE has said Georgia had made "elaborate plans to seize South Ossetia."

Hamburg (dpa) - European observers have faulted Georgia in this month's Caucasus conflict, saying it made elaborate plans to seize South Ossetia, according to the German news magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday.

In a report to appear in its Monday edition, it said officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had said acts by the Georgian government had contributed to the outbreak of the crisis with Russia.

Spiegel said OSCE military observers in the Caucasus had described preparations by Georgia to move into South Ossetia.

The onslaught had begun before Russian armored vehicles entered a southbound tunnel under the Caucasus Mountains to South Ossetia.

It said the OSCE report also described suspected war crimes by the Georgians, including the Georgians ordering attacks on sleeping South Ossetian civilians.

Our Georgian Service spoke to the OSCE today, who said they could not confirm the story. Regarding the question of who shot first, the FT had an excellent article this week attempting to recreate how the war started.

-- Luke Allnutt

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