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Last updated: 21:06 - 23 Feb.'18
The Weekly Tripwire - Issue 12
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 10 Oct.'17 / 17:45

Moskovsky district built over the ruins of village Tamarasheni, a large ethnic Georgian-majority village north of Tskhinvali. Photo: screengrab from google maps

October 2-8

The end of the Georgian schools in Akhalgori – Renovation of a district built over a ruined Georgian village – Bibilov asks Ukraine to give him Saakashvili – Tskhinvali roots for the separatists in Catalonia – Khajimba praises Putin’s role in history – Bosnian Serb authorities send officials to Abkhazia – Putin’s man puts Tskhinvali under funding scrutiny – Luhansk-Abkhazia contacts – Effort to consolidate ethnic Russian community in Abkhazia – Sokhumi’s Eurasian ties – 81st IPRM meet in Ergneti

Tskhinvali Happenings – The end of the Georgian schools in Akhalgori: Tskhinvali “education minister” Natali Gasieva thinks that abolishment of Georgian schools in Akhalgori Municipality – the only part of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia with some remaining ethnic Georgian population – means giving them opportunities, rather than violating their rights. Primary grades pupils of the last Georgian schools in Tskhinvali Region have been transferred to the Russian language of instruction since September 2017. The pattern follows the one employed by the Russian-backed Sokhumi authorities in the Georgian-populated Gali District of Abkhazia region.

Tskhinvali Happenings – Renovation of a district built over a ruined Georgian village: Tskhinvali municipal services are rehabilitating houses in the Moskovsky district, built in 2009 over the ruins of Tamarasheni – a large Georgian village that was ethnically cleansed of its population as a result of the war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008. Construction of the district, sponsored by the then Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, apparently was not of an exceedingly high quality, necessitating the current rehabilitation effort that is replacing roofs to stop the rainwater from pouring into the district’s houses.

Tskhinvali Happenings – Bibilov asks Ukraine to give him Saakashvili: In a recent interview, the Russian-backed Tskhinvali leader Anatoly Bibilov “advised” the Ukrainian authorities to “transfer Saakashvili to South Ossetia, so that he answers before the court for the crimes against humanity he has committed.” Bibilov says that it would “at least partly relieve” the Ukrainian government of responsibility for supporting Georgia under Saakashvili.

Tskhinvali roots for the separatists in Catalonia: Following their Abkhaz counterparts, the Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities have also expressed sympathy for the attempted Catalan secession. Their “foreign minister” Dmitry Medoev said that “despite the pogroms by the police, it is clear that the Catalans have defended their right to independence with honor,” and that “the aggressive reaction of the Spanish authorities on the referendum has shown the world, once again, that for the West the accepted practice is not the primacy of the main principles of international law, but double standards and open duplicity.”

Sokhumi Happenings – Khajimba praises Putin’s role in history: Following the Sokhumi-Tskhinvali habit of publishing birthday congratulations to various Russian officials on the formal web pages of the two regions’ Russian-backed authorities, Raul Khajimba issued his congratulation on the birthday of Vladimir Putin. Khajimba praised “the truly historic changes” Russia has undergone during Putin’s rule, bringing “growth of the political and military might of the Russian state,” as well as economic benefits. “Today, the Russian people are united, proud of their country, and looking into the future confidently,” posits Khajimba.

Russia’s Network – Bosnian Serb authorities send officials to Abkhazia: A delegation from the Serb autonomous entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina went on a three-day visit to the Russian-occupied Abkhazia. Led by the Bosnian Serb Deputy Minister of Trade and Tourism Dusanka Tegeltija and vice president of the Trade and Industry Chamber Mihajlo Vidic, the group of 16 officials met with the Russian-backed Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba, among others. Vidic said he was convinced that the Bosnian Serb and the Abkhaz “history and fight for independence are similar,” which is why they are “obliged” to develop cooperation. 

It would appear that the visit is related to the fact that Russia has been carefully cultivating secessionist sentiments in the Serb entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina for years.

Russia’s Network – Putin’s man puts Tskhinvali under funding scrutiny: A representative of Vladimir Putin’s administration Oleg Govorun visited Tskhinvali to inspect how the Russian funding is being spent in the region. While he told the local Russian-backed leader Anatoly Bibilov that Moscow “had no doubts” Bibilov would continue “the policy of further deepening of the traditional processes related to the Russian Federation,” Govorun also stressed that certain funds designated for Tskhinvali were frozen “for the simple reason that we want to see how successful your projects are going to be.” As if that were not clear enough for Govorun’s wards, led in the meeting by Bibilov personally, the Russian official re-emphasized that Moscow has taken the pause in the funding “on purpose.” He then went on along the lines of how the Russians would judge the competence of the locals before releasing the money.

Russia’s Network – Luhansk-Abkhazia contacts: We are already used to frequent and close contacts between the Russian proxies in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions and their colleagues in Tskhinvali. Now Sokhumi seems to be trying to catch up a little bit in terms of the Donbass connections, with a visit of the self-styled legislature delegation from Luhansk to Abkhazia.

Russia’s Network – Effort to consolidate ethnic Russian community in Abkhazia: During a meeting on October 4, various ethnic Russian organizations in Abkhazia decided to consolidate themselves under a single coordination council. In their statement, ethnic Russian community leaders said they wanted to create “a monolithic ethnic grouping for systemic decision of all vital issues of the 22-thousand Russian-speaking population of Abkhazia.”

Russia’s Network – Sokhumi’s Eurasian ties: The Eurasian Business Union – a commercial organization affiliated with the Russian geopolitical project the Eurasian Economic Union – has signed a cooperation agreement with “the trade mission of Abkhazia in Russia.”

On the Line – 81st IPRM meet in Ergneti: The 81st Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meeting was held in village Ergneti on October 3. Continued imprisonment of the Georgian citizen Giorgi Giunashvili by the Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities was discussed at the meeting, along with other issues, including “borderization,” continued detentions of local residents, and the demolition of the houses of ethnic Georgians in the occupied Eredvi village.

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