Friday, 2 July 2010

Georgia on my mind

Let's not be mealy-mouthed about this.  Very nearly two years ago, in August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia, the "issue" being South Ossetia.  I posted about this last year, and was nearly submerged by a flood of comments supporting Russia's action, none of them so far as I could tell from Russians but a great many of them from self-confessed Guardian readers.  You can read a very interesting report by the International Crisis Group on the South Ossetia situation since then.  It should be noted that there are only four countries which do not recognise South Ossetia as part of Georgia.  But I do not hear any protest about the foul abuse of human rights which has been going on in South Ossetia for some considerable time.  Anyone?  Thought not.  Anyway, those who care might like to read this extract from the report here and now:

South Ossetia is no closer to genuine independence now than in August 2008, when Russia went to war with Georgia and extended recognition. The small, rural territory lacks even true political, economic or military autonomy. Moscow staffs over half the government, donates 99 per cent of the budget and provides security. South Ossetians themselves often urge integration into the Russian Federation, and their entity’s situation closely mirrors that of Russia’s North Caucasus republics. Regardless of the slow pace of post-conflict reconstruction, extensive high-level corruption and dire socio-economic indicators, there is little interest in closer ties with Georgia. Moscow has not kept important ceasefire commitments, and some 20,000 ethnic Georgians from the region remain forcibly displaced. At a minimum, Russians, Ossetians and Georgians need to begin addressing the local population’s basic needs by focusing on creating freedom of movement and economic and humanitarian links without status preconditions.

The war dealt a heavy physical, economic, demographic and political blow to South Ossetia. The permanent population had been shrinking since the early 1990s and now is unlikely to be much more than 30,000. The $840 million Russia has contributed in rehabilitation assistance and budgetary support has not significantly improved local conditions. With its traditional trading routes to the rest of Georgia closed, the small Ossetian economy has been reduced to little more than a service provider for the Russian military and construction personnel. Other than the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), no international humanitarian, development or monitoring organisation operates in the region; dependent on a single unreliable road to Russia, the inhabitants are isolated.

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