Russo-Ossetian joint projects under cover of "revival" of the region
14/09/2009 17:34
Gogi Maisuradze
"The club of experts", expert

Since August last year nobody doubts that Russia is planning to completely take root in the Georgian territories that it occupied and fully integrate these regions into its own territory. We will be fully convinced in that if we look at the latest statements by Kokoiti, Medvedev and Putin about the perspectives of the region.

In particular, during his first "work" visit Medvedev announced that "in the future Russia and South Ossetia will carry out joint projects in different fields". And on the 26th of September Putin during the press-conference dedicated to his meeting with Kokoiti in Moscow "proudly" announced that "Russian border service took responsibility upon itself to protect peace in the region. More than 30 agreements and contracts in security, economic and social fields that will strengthen a legislative basis for our co-operation are underway".

As to Kokoiti, he many times announced that "there cannot be two Ossetias... They cannot be split into two... I will do everything in my power to unite South and North Ossetia within Russia...".

It is also notable that according to representatives of the Kokoiti opposition that was voiced even in the Russian media today a real number of inhabitants of Tskhinvali region is just 15 thousand and the majority of the adult males are members of various armed military formations. As to the civil population, the main part of it left the region before the events of August 2008. After the end of the war actions a certain part of the civilian population that remained in the region was compelled to leave their homes due to a very hard socio-economic and criminogenic situation in Tskhinvali region. Most of them are still reluctant to return. But there are exceptions. Osettians who left Georgia after the events in the nineties of the last century started to come back from North Ossetia and settle in Tskhinvali and neighboring Georgian villages of the gorges of Big and Small Liakhvi. This process was encouraged by activization of the Ossetian communities and a resolution of Tskhinvali City Hall that enables so-called South Ossetian citizens to re-register Georgian houses, land and other properties free-of-charge. Yet number of people wishing to return to their homes is minuscule.

Despite such circumstances Kokoiti makes official announcements that there is an intense process of rehabilitation and return of the local population going on. He artificially increases their number just to attract more money and satisfy his ever growing appetite.

In order to show the real situation there we collected information and tried to confirm them using our resources.

First of all, we should draw attention to the real number of inhabitants of Tskhinvali region that today is around 19 000. But permanent residents amount to no more than 15 thousand. The remaining 4 000 are contingent of the Russian Army servicemen stationed there and majority of whom due to absence of the appropriate living conditions have not yet brought their families.

So Russia’s plans to build apartment districts serve a purpose of solving the above problem of accommodation shortages. At the end of this august Iuri Luzhkov, the Mayor of Moscow himself opened so-called "Moskovski" district that was built on the grounds of the bulldozed Georgian village of Tamarasheni and was designed for members of the Russian armed forces and their families. We should also note that Russia plans to build several other similar districts in the region that in the end will turn it (the region) into a Russian settlement and a military base.

In addition, Russians continue intense construction of military units in the villages of Ikoti and Kanchaveti of the Akhalgori district. It also should be taken into account that in conditions of total unemployment of local population more than 800 military engineers and workers are brought from Russia to work in construction and rehabilitation works of bridges, roads and other, mainly military, communication infrastructure. They are the ones who at an intensified pace are building Akhalgori-Tskhinvali motorway and power supply units. It is notable that the separatists are planning to supply electricity and natural gas to Akhalgori directly from Tskhinvali.

After signing of the Russian-Ossetian joint agreement Russia intensified militarization of the region – their military contingent, heavy military hardware and weapons. Russian militaries presented so-called South Ossetian Defence Ministry with modern stationary equipment of coded communication and other technical equipment. They are helping local armed forces in issues of reorganization, military training and learning of new war techniques.

Additionally, there is an increase in numbers of Ossetian armed military formations. In accordance with Kokoiti resolution "internal army" will be created within "South Ossetian" MIA that will be under direct subordination of the Defence Minister, while "militant" armed formations active in Tskhinvali and Java districts will be included into structures of Special Forces so-called "OMON". Combat readiness of all these militarized formations is personally controlled by the de-facto Defence Minister.

We should also note that increase of the separatist military formations is happening at the expense of unemployed citizens coming from Russia and their motive for the arrival is described as protection of "interests of the brotherly Ossetian nation".

Despite the fact that Russian "colleagues" substituted locals previously operating as border service the latter are still carrying out unauthorized "control" of the certain parts of the administrative border. They as many other self-proclaimed armed formations have not been disarmed until today. They are drunk when coming to posts and often fire in the direction of villages and posts situated on the Georgian controlled territories from different kinds of weapons. And that can cause a rise of possibilities of armed provocations in the conflict zone.

As to the Russian border guards they are controlling 90% of the administrative border.

Recently, military discipline in both Russian and local military divisions is in decline. There are a significant increase in numbers of desertions and other crimes and respectively number of military policemen was increased.

We should also note that aiming at quick return of the refugee population of Tskhinvali region and hoping for the support of the Russian banks the local administration is offering them all kinds of benefits to develop a small business – interest-free credits, unhindered issue of wages and pensions and so on. While this year Russian Ministry of Education even allocated limits for tens of Ossetian youngsters to be accepted and study without a fee in different universities of the Russian federation. Only Znauri district received 6 of those limits. One of them was offered to a Georgian youngster who refused to take it.

After analyzing all the above we can conclude the following:

• Russia under the pretext of improvement of socio-economic conditions of the population of the occupied region and rehabilitation of infrastructure and through manipulation of the allocated sums (more than 10 billion Rubles) is conducting a swift construction of military objects (taking into account weaknesses and faults highlighted during the war in August 2008) and is aiming at full militarization of the region in the future.

• Russian military forces deployed in the region need rehabilitated and modern technological infrastructure such as roads, bridges, airfields and so on in order to improve parameters of their operational manoeuvrs. But all this will definitely require using sums that are meant for economic and social fields.

• Coming from its national, military and strategic interests Russia is trying to take a full control of the administrative borders between Tskhinvali region and the rest of Georgia in South Caucasus. And by building military bases, and if we consider recent events in North Caucasus, Russia might be preparing for local military operations in the direction of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan and Kabardia.

• Factors of mutual (Russian-Ossetian) interests should be also considered. On one hand, the separatists will feel more secure surrounded by the Russian armed forces, On the other hand, not only the Georgians but also the Ingush have territorial or other claims towards Ossetians. That’s why Ossetians will try their best to convince “brotherly” Russians in their loyalty that is even shown in a newly signed bilateral agreement and unwaveringly fulfill any of their instructions in order to protect “mutual interests”.

• Frequent visits of Russian high rank officials in the region as well as their planned future visits are not only connected to a mere presentation of the newly built objects. They are interested in seeing a real picture on the spot and personally listen to information given by heads of the appropriate departments. All the above is needed to outline and realize much more serious and far-reaching future plans.

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