Monday, August 18, 2008
Moscow does not consider Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili a party to negotiations. As stated in a press release from the Department of Information and the Press of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Moscow has more than once stated that there are no obstacles to negotiations with Georgia. "However, it should be clear to any person of sound mind that we do not consider Mikhail Saakashvili a party to negotiations," the release reads.
According to the release, "M. Saakashvili continues to make statements, in which he alternates between conjecturing and swearing, with rare mention of his readiness to resolve any of the issues with Moscow by 'civil dialogue.' It would be good to point out that on August 10th, when the ministers of foreign affairs of France and Finland, acting on behalf of the EU and OSCE, arrived in Tbilisi, M. Saakashvili along with the two ministers signed a commitment to abstain from hostile rhetoric. That this commitment hasn't been respected doesn't surprise us. However, it does raise questions about the worth of the signature of the Georgian leader, who hurls insults daily at the Russian Federation."
The Russian MFA noted that concrete negotiations for a prisoner exchange had been going on for the past few days. The exchange was to be made on August 18th, but at the last minute the Georgians put forward additional political conditions, and the exchange was broken off. "Tbilisi's attitude towards the humanitarian situation in particular demonstrates the real value of Saakashvili's statements concerning the necessity to 'find a framework for further mutual relations so that our countries don't drive each other away'," concludes the press release from the Department of Information and the Press of the Russian MFA.
Georgian military maps which have fallen into Russian hands indicate that Georgia had been preparing for aggressions against South Ossetia since 2006. As Anatoliy Nogovitsyn, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, stated at a Moscow press conference, two maps belonging to a commander of an infantry battalion have fallen into Russian hands, both in the Georgian language. Analysis of these maps shows that Georgia had long prepared for this operation in South Ossetia, reports an IA Regnum correspondent.
According to the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, the planned military operations of the Georgian army were drawn on the maps. One of the main objectives, as confirmed by the maps, was to form a blockade around the posts of Russian peacekeepers in the territory of South Ossetia; another aim was to completely isolate South Ossetia from Russia in order to block reinforcements from the peacekeeping contingent.
• Burjanadze: time will come for tough questions;
• Burjanadze: I have to play active political role;
• Opposition: no tome for internal strife now;
• Opposition: NATO must speed-up Georgia membership;
Opposition parties, as well as former parliamentary speaker, Nino Burjanadze, said on August 18 Russian troops’ withdrawal was now a priority, but the government would definitely face “tough questions” afterwards about what led to the conflict and why it all happened.
“I'm afraid it will not be very easy for the government to answer all the questions,” Nino Burjanadze said in an interview with Reuters. “It was impossible to imagine that Russian tanks would be 20-25 minutes drive from Tbilisi, that we would have so many refugees and displaced persons and so many casualties among civilians.”
“I am more than sure that right now I have to play a very active political role in the country,” Burjanadze added in what appears to be her strongest indication of having plans to make the political comeback soon.
Meanwhile, leaders of two opposition parties – Republican and New Rights – Davit Usupashvili and Davit Gamkrelidze, respectively, said at a joint news conference on August 18, that they would continue, what they called, “a moratorium” on conformation with the authorities. But, they said, questions would be asked and analysis would be made of what had happened as soon as the crisis recedes.
Other opposition politicians are also cautious from making any harsh remarks for now, at least for the Georgian media. But on August 15, the Financial Times carried quotes of Levan Gachechiladze, co-leader of opposition coalition and Kakha Kukava, leader of the Conservative Party, warning the authorities about the anticipated protest rallies.
Gachechiladze was quoted by FT.com as saying that the opposition would campaign for elections to be held “at the earliest opportunity”, perhaps within two months. And Kukava was quoted as saying: “Saakashvili was personally responsible for the military operation, and for starting a war we could not win.” He also added the opposition would wait until the situation had cooled and then call for mass demonstrations aimed at removing the government.
As soon as the quotes were carried in the Russian news wires, both of the politicians prompted to announce that their remarks were put out of the context.
“Today, when Russian tanks are rolling on the Georgian territory, on the most part of its territory, we need unity, firmness and our enemies should never see political tensions in the country,” Levan Gachechiladze said on August 15.
“Our position is that Russian tanks should leave Georgia and afterwards discussions will start over who is responsible for what has happened,” Kukava told Civil.Ge.
Meanwhile, in a joint statement the Republican and New Rights parties called on NATO on August 18 to speed up the process of Georgia’s integration into the alliance.
“We call on you, against the background of existing situation and based on the NATO Bucharest summit declaration, to take a decision on Georgia’s prompt integration into the alliance,” the statement reads. “It would be a clear message to everyone, who think to achieve their imperial aspirations through the military means and it also would be a message to all the freedom-loving nations that they are not alone. It would also be a chance for Georgia to finally get rid of armed conflicts and to continue peaceful march towards the democracy.”
General Staff of Russia: Georgian demands suggest that they are trying to use our captured as hostages
The Russian Ministry of Defense is placing blame on the Georgians for failing to follow through with a prisoner exchange. As Anatoliy Nogovitsyn, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, stated, according to agreement reached earlier, a "list-for-list" prisoner exchange was supposed to have taken place in the village of Ergneti. Russia was supposed to transfer 15 Georgian servicemen; Georgia was supposed to transfer 12 Russians, reports and IA Regnum correspondent.
However, according to the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, just before the exchange was about to take place, Georgian representatives put forward a number of additional conditions, and as a result, the exchange was broken off.
"Time is necessary to fulfill any kind of requirement. The fact that they gave us these conditions without any advance notice tells us something. Preliminary analysis of the conditions which the Georgians gave us suggest that they are trying to use our prisoners of war as hostages and somehow bargain," said Nogovitsyin.
He noted that Russia believes that Georgian authorities should be just as interested in a prisoner exchange.
The total outflow of capital from Russia during the period of military activities in South Ossetia amounted to $7 billion, said Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin to reporters. "$6 billion on Friday (August 8th) and $1 bllion on Monday (August 11th) -- this was currency which left Russia," said Kudrin.
The newspaper "Труд" ["Labor"] has estimated the cost of the war. Based on world market prices for weapons, the cost of one tank shell is $200, one artillery shell - $150, one grenade - $8, one thousand automatic rounds - $30, "Smerch" ["Tornado"] rockets - $2000, one aerial bomb - $3000. According to experts from the Center for the Analysis of Strategy and Technologies, the greatest expense of the military operation in the Caucasus was fuel -- no less than 1.2 billion rubles [~$49 million] a day.
Georgia lost no less than $200 million per day. But there is an important nuance. The Georgian military is funded entirely by the US: in 2007, Georgian military expenditures totaled $1 billion. Georgia does not have that much of its own money. It is also widely known that their purchases of military technology and weapons are not made at world market prices, but at a 50-80% discount. According to the experts, Ukraine, for example, sold Georgia the modern Su-25 planes (under Georgian classification, "Mimino") for $3 million, while their real price is $8-10 million.
"2 billion rubles per day -- this is the minimum that Russia paid for the war," Ruslan Pukhov directr of the Center for the Analysis of Strategy and Technologies told "Труд." Accordng to Pukhov, these are purely military expenses, but there are also expenses from providing humanitarian aid, which also come from the Ministry of Defense: evacuation and accommodation of refugees, their supplies, and medical aid. "However, our calculations follow the guidelines of standardized international methods," specified the expert. "This, for example, is the cost of putting a plane in the sky, the daily use of a tank, and of infantry fighting vehicles and ships, and fuel expenses."
South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity stated on August 18th that the republic might ask Russia to establish a permanent military base on its territory.
He emphasized that based on Georgian statements saying that after the withdrawal of the Russian and Georgian armies, Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be returned to Georgia, a military base is necessary in order to prevent a new genocide of the Ossetian people.
On August 18th, in accordance with the ceasefire, the withdrawal of divisions of the 58th Russian army from South Ossetia began.