Trouble in the Caucasus. The Daily Telegraph reports that the US is blaming Russia for stirring up South Ossetia against Georgia. The UN Security Council will meet at one hour to midnight, Eastern Time, to discuss the situation there.
“The United States swiftly called for calm, but appeared to apportion more blame on Moscow and the separatist forces it supports for taking the volatile region to the brink of war. …The United States condemned Russia’s interference in the region as provocative, while the European Union has repeated its commitment to the inviolability of Georgia’s territorial integrity.Relations between Russia and Georgia have been sour ever since Mr Saakashvili was swept to power in 2003 after the Rose Revolution and pursued a determined policy to break free from Moscow’s influence.”
Reuters says that “Members of the U.N. Security Council agreed to a Russian request and will hold a rare late-night session on Thursday after Georgia sent troops into its breakaway province of South Ossetia.” The IHT describes breakaway regions as de facto autonomous, following their emergence after the breakup of the USSR. But after “Saakashvili challenged Russian pre-eminence in the region by seeking NATO membership and stronger ties with the West” and under the sting of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, an act widely regarded as humiliating to Russia, the Bear struck back.
“It does give off the appearance that the violence is linked to strategic moves by one or both sides to improve their positions,” said Ana Jelenkovic, an associate at the Eurasia Group, a political risk analysis consultancy.
In the violence this week, separatist fighters from South Ossetia used rocket-propelled grenades to blow up a Georgian armored personnel carrier, killing two soldiers and wounding six others, said Shota Utiashvili, a Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman. As many as eight Georgian civilians were killed Thursday in a mortar attack on Avnevi, a village in the border region, he said.
On the South Ossetian side, at least 20 people were wounded when villages came under fire from Georgian positions, said Tamara Keleksayeva, of the South Ossetia separatist government.
Potentially complicating matters, about 300 volunteer fighters from Russia have arrived in South Ossetia to aid in the fight, she said.