Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Oct 11 12:37:10 UTC 2006

Eurasia Insight:
Diana Petriashvili: 10/10/06

As Georgia buckles down to wait out hard-hitting Russian economic
sanctions, outrage at Russias treatment of ethnic Georgians following a
recent espionage dispute is growing. Officials in Tbilisi have
characterized recent Russian actions as fascist. Some 119 Georgians were
deported from Moscow on October 9, finally arriving in Tbilisi on October
10 after Georgia denied the plane landing permission for technical
reasons. (Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had earlier stated that
only normal planes with chairs and windows, not cattle wagons, would be
allowed to bring Georgian deportees home.) The plane follows an October 6
flight that brought 130 deportees back to Georgia on board a Russian cargo
plane. A Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations plane bearing 150
Russians also departed Tbilisi for Moscow on October 10.

Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili has categorized the
deportations and reported police scrutiny of ethnic Georgians in Russian
cities as a softer form of ethnic cleansing. Parliamentary Speaker Nino
Burjanadze has described the measures taken against Georgians -- including
reports that Russian police are demanding schools to turn over lists of
Georgian -- as xenophobic and fascist. Addressing Russian citizens of
Georgian origin on October 9, Saakashvili urged them to return to Georgia.
We are ready to give them an opportunity to live in Georgia and to grant
Georgian citizenship to all those who are oppressed in Russia because of a
Georgian last name or Georgian background, Saakashvili said, as quoted by
the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Saakashvili stated that he is prepared to meet Russian President Vladimir
Putin to discuss the two countries steadily worsening relations. I am
ready to meet with President Putin anytime, Saakashvili said at a meeting
with members of parliament from the ruling National Movement Party on
October 9. We want to solve problems with Russia in a bilateral format, he
added. The Georgian leader has also stated that his government is
considering bringing a case before the European Court of Human Rights
about Russias violation of deportees human rights. We will use all legal
means to protect our citizens; we are now considering the possibility of
appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, Saakashvili said in
comments broadcast by Georgian television outlets. He spoke while visiting
one of Tbilisis Russian-language schools to express, as he said,
solidarity with Russians and other national minorities living in Georgia.

Russia imposed sanctions against Georgia prior to the release of four
Russian officers arrested for espionage on September 27. Eleven Georgian
citizens were also arrested in connection with the spy scandal. On October
2, the Russian Ministry of Transportation announced that it had stopped
all air, rail, car, and sea traffic with Georgia. Postal communications
between Russia and Georgia were also suspended. On the same day, the
Russian parliament, or Duma, proposed amendments to existing legislation
that would stop money transfers from Russia to Georgia.

The Kremlin has not reciprocated Georgias willingness to discuss bilateral
tension. Russian officials say now is not the proper time for discussions.
The problem is about changing opinions. The problem is not about who takes
the first step, Modest Kolerov, the Russian presidents representative for
regional relations, told Georgian reporters in Moscow on October 9, local
media outlets reported. The most important [problem] is to review the
entire system of relations. Russian officials have presented the
deportations of ethnic Georgians as a necessary response to longstanding
violations of labor and immigration laws. In interviews with EurasiaNet,
Georgian nationals living in Russia say that not only labor migrants are
being targeted by Russian law-enforcement agencies.

Several Georgians who have held Russian citizenship since the early 1990s
reported having to go to neighborhood police stations in Moscow for
interrogations and to have their documents checked. They said they have to
conduct an investigation to see if I obtained Russian citizenship legally,
Giorgi Kakhidze, a Georgian national living in Moscow. Another respondent,
who gave her name as Anna N and is married to a Georgian with Russian
citizenship, claimed that her husbands documents have been checked six
times, and his fingerprints taken three times since October 5, three days
after the four Russian military officers arrested by Georgia on espionage
charges were turned over to Russian custody. [For details, see the Eurasia
Insight archive.] She added that her family could not find a friend with
Georgian citizenship who was detained by Moscow police three days ago. We
have checked several police departments, but never got any information
regarding his whereabouts.

According to Russian media reports, Russian law-enforcement services have
also begun to check the identity papers of worshippers in Moscows Georgian
Orthodox churches. Interfax quoted Mamuka Putkaradze, a spokesman for
Metropolitan of Tskhum-Abkhazia Daniil, who said that all visitors, both
Georgian and Russian citizens, had to show their IDs before entering Saint
George Cathedral on October 7. The spokesman also said that two church
choir singers were detained, although they had valid documents and
one-year invitations, Putkaradze said. Georgians arriving in Tbilisi on
the October 6 flight from Moscow told reporters that all their papers were
in order. Being Georgians is your only fault, they said to us. Go back and
ask your [President Mikheil] Saakashvili why you are suffering, deportee
Irina Mkheidze told Imedi television.

While most Georgians do not hold President Saakashvili solely responsible
for Russias response, many, both in Tbilisi and in Moscow, express a
desire for greater caution. The measures undertaken by the Russian side
are really inadequate, Marina Dzotsenidze, an ethnic Georgian living in
Moscow, said in a telephone interview. But if the Georgian authorities do
care about their citizens, they should be thinking twice before provoking
any country, she added.  They should realize that if this situation
continues, Georgia will have to take care of 300,000 jobless people and
their poor families. I do not think it is possible.

For now, the economic impact of that review has not been harshly felt
within Georgia, but further difficulties are anticipated. The National
Bank of Georgias press service stated on October 10 that rapid-delivery
international money transfer systems are still operating between Russia
and Georgia. Thousands of Georgian residents depend on the money sent to
them by family members working temporarily in Russia. Georgian officials,
however, have pledged that the country will turn to international
financial organizations to protest the stop of money transfers from
Russia. At an October 6 news briefing, National Bank of Georgia President
Roman Gotsiridze charged that the measure violates International Monetary
Fund regulations. Gotsiridze went on to claim that the ban could lead to
illegal money transfer systems that could be used to expedite
money-laundering and terrorist activities as well.

With the recent closure of all land borders with Russia, the loss of air
traffic poses an additional headache. Georgian National Airways told Black
Sea Press on October 6 that the company expects annual losses of several
million dollars from the cessation of its flights to and from Russia.
Georgian National Airways General Director Giorgi Kodua added that
Georgian airlines plan to appeal to the International Civil Aviation
Organization that Russias travel suspension violates a pre-existing
bilateral agreement with Georgia.

The disruption of postal services, both publicly and privately run,
promises further trouble. An employee of international express shipping
company DHL in Tbilisi said that all of the companys shipments to Russia
had stopped as of October 7. The country accounted for as much as 20
percent of DHLs business in Georgia, the employee said.

One of the companys last Russia-bound shipments was a cluster of grapes,
sent to the Kremlin on October 6 by Georgian Defense Minister Irakli
Okruashvili, who doubles as Georgias wine tsar. Russian officials, who
banned the import of all Georgian wine and mineral waters on the basis of
alleged impurities, have forgotten the taste of Georgian grapes,
Okruashvili told reporters.

Editors Note: Diana Petriashvili is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.


More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list