Saturday, 11 June 2011

The US reinforces Georgian armor‏

June 10, 2011
The army has received 40 Hummer vehicles
By Georgy Dvali, Tbilisi

The US has transferred 40 military-version Hummer vehicles to Georgia. The Pentagon explained the direct military assistance to Georgia with the necessity to train an additional contingent of Georgian special forces for their deployment to Afghanistan. At the same time, experts have no doubts that such a generous gesture of the US has ulterior motives ­ it is aimed to show the congressional critics of the current administration that it is not abandoning its main ally in the Caucasus for the sake of the reset with Russia.

The solemn ceremony of the transfer of 30 Hummer 1151 vehicles and 10 armed Hummer 1151 1 vehicles to Georgia took place at the Georgian Defense Ministry's Krtsanisi training center, located near Tbilisi. The ceremony was attended by the First Deputy Defense Minister of Georgia, Nodar Kharshiladze, and temporary US Charge d'Affairs Kent Logsdon. His immediate supervisor, US Ambassador to Tbilisi John Bass, is now on honeymoon back home.

The editor in chief of Arsenali, an independent analytical magazine, Irakli Aladashvili, noted in an interview with Kommersant that according to its specifications, the Hummer belongs to a class of armored vehicles that the Georgian army already has in its inventory ­ in particular, the Turkish Cobra, the Israeli Wolf and the Georgian Didgori. The combined cost of the 40 US vehicles amounts to about $5 million. According to Kommersant's sources in Georgia's Defense Ministry, the received vehicles will be used in the training of military units leaving for Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the vehicles will not be used in the combat zone. According to Kommersant's source, "the vehicles are not being rented out by the US, but are being transferred as a gift; in other words, they will remain in the inventory of the Defense Ministry's units and subunits after the end of the operation in Afghanistan."

Recall that Tbilisi will soon significantly raise its level of participation in the operation of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAS). The announcement of Tbilisi's readiness to make this step was made by the White House after a recent meeting in Rome between US Vice President Joe Biden and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. Kommersant's sources note that another battalion of 600-650 contractors will be deployed to Afghanistan, where 950 Georgian troops already serve today. Thus, in the near future, the Georgian contingent in the country will be the largest of any non-NATO state.

The US has been providing direct military assistance to Georgia since 2002. Within the framework of the "train and equip" program, the Pentagon supplied several old Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters to the country, which are still being used by the Georgian Air Force, as well as about a dozen trucks. Since then, certain influential US senators, including former Republican presidential candidate John McCain, have repeatedly urged the US administration to start supplying defense weapons to Georgia.

According to Irakli Aladashvili, as a result the White House took the middle ground.

"Georgia was given armored vehicles, which could very well be equipped with anti-tank missiles, as well as antiaircraft weapons. [The Hummer vehicles] are much better than the Toyota cars which have been used by the Georgian Armed Forces during the war in August for the relocation of small units," explained Aladashvili.

The transfer of the armored vehicles coincided with the entry of the US Navy warship "Anzio" into the port of Batumi, where it will remain until June 12. The cruiser is equipped with guided missiles and state-of-the-art technology. The crew consists of 31 officers and 305 sailors. During the stay at Batumi, the US sailors will conduct joint training operations with Georgian Coast Guard staff.

Source: Kommersant


Vanuatu Daily Post: Foreign Affairs Minister apologises

…eyes trade relations with Abkhazia and Georgia

By Jane Joshua

Vanuatu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfred Carlot has apolgised for the miscommunication between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Vanuatu’s UN Representative-Donald Kalpokas in New York.

This, minister Carlot said, was due to his absence on a multilateral mission abroad in Seoul.

But he made Vanuatu’s stand on recognition for Abkhazia clear when he revealed Vanuatu is looking forward to establishing Trade relations with the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of Georgia in the “very near future”.

“As the Minister of Foreign Affairs I reaffirm Vanuatu’s recognition to the Republic of Abkhazia,” said minister Carlot.

“Vanuatu signed diplomatic relations with the Republic of Abkhazia in Port Vila on May 23, 2011 by Prime minister Sato Kilman.

“Vanuatu conducts an open foreign policy and is amongst other members of the international community in eradicating colonialism from the face of this planet. Vanuatu is neutral; our recognition of Abkhazia does not in any way mean that we cannot have diplomatic relations with the Republic of Georgia.

“We wish to extend our most sincere invitation to the Republic of Georgia to establish relations with us.

“One of our roving ambassadors will be visiting the region later this year.”

Minister Carlot further revealed that having personally studied at the Moscow University on an exchange scheme( MGIMO) in 1987 he has a “very good understanding of the geo-political situation in that region”.

Abkhazia has Sergei Bagapsh as its president and Georgia’s president is Mikheil Saakashvili.

Boasting a population of over 250,000 (Christians and Islamists) with agricultural (citrus fruit, tobacco, tea, timber,) coal and hydro-electric power as its natural resources Abkhazia is considered to be the break away region of Georgia(1992-1993 war) and its economy is highly dependent on Russia.

Despite declaring its independence in 1999 it is not recognised by many international communities and Vanuatu is only the second country in the Pacific after Nauru to recognise Abkhazia.

Here are some key dates in the history of Abkhazia as provided by the BBC:

756 - Independent kingdom formed, 985 - Becomes part of Georgia, later regaining independence, 1578 - Comes under Turkish rule, 1810 - Russia declares Abkhazia a protectorate, 1864 - Russia annexes Abkhazia,1931 - Soviet authorities incorporate Abkhazia into Georgia, 1991 - Georgia declares independence, 1992 - Georgia sends troops to stop Abkhazia breaking away, 1993 - Fierce fighting ends with Georgian forces being expelled from Abkhazia ,1994 - Ceasefire agreed, peacekeepers arrive, nearly all Russian, 1999 - Abkhazia declares independence, 2004 - New Georgian president Saakashvili vows to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity and return Abkhazia, South Ossetia to the fold, 2008 - Russia formally recognises Abkhazia’s independence, following the Russian-Georgian war over South Ossetia and 2009 - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Abkhazia to elect new president on August 26

SUKHUM (June 8) Abkhazia will go to the polls to elect a new president on August 26, following the death of President Sergei Bagapsh on May 29.

The date was set by a resolution passed by the Parliament of Abkhazia on Wednesday.

Bagapsh, 63, who had led Abkhazia since 2005, died of cancer in Moscow following an operation on his lungs.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Georgia and hasty comparisons, by Cem Oguz

Hurriyet Daily News (29 May 2011)

Nowadays, a new wave of domestic turmoil is allegedly threatening Georgia’s political stability. Last week’s popular protest against President Mikhail Saakashvili, organized by one of his previous comrades-in-arms, former parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze, demanded his immediate ouster.

The demonstrations immediately attracted the attention of the international public, which has been engrossed in recent popular uprisings in the Middle East. A certain segment of the Western media, for instance, particularly those who basically follow the events from their offices in Moscow, was not late in describing the demonstration as the latest Arab spring wave and one set to sweep through the former Soviet republics.

Burjanadze, too, plays to this card. She accuses Saakashvili of monopolizing political power in Georgia and claims that a “new revolution” has inevitably started in Georgia. The fact that the rallies were launched to thwart the annual Independence Day parade in one of the main squares of Tbilisi suggests that the opposition is trying to create a kind of “Tahrir Square effect” in the country. The organizers of the protest have indeed declared that they are modeling their actions on the popular uprisings that swept the Middle East recently.

Since his rise to power on a wave of democratic optimism during the famous 2003 “Rose Revolution” that toppled Eduard Shevardnadze, I have been following Saakashvili with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I appreciate his reforms, first and foremost his vivid fight against corruption. I traveled through almost all the ex-Soviet countries and have closely observed that it was this institutionalized daily-life phenomenon that raised many people’s hackles.

On the other hand, however, I have been critical of Saakashvili’s semi-authoritarian tendencies and overdosed self-confidence, best exemplified by his attempt to solve the impasse in the Abkhazian and South Ossetian problems by military means. Indeed, in those days his decision to resort to force was a kind of self-destruction. It was very clear that Russia, due to the Kosovo crisis, would respond extremely harshly. Those who sincerely want to find out what led Saakashvili to take such a decision need to look to the commitments he was given by the neo-cons of the George W. Bush administration, particularly by then Vice President Dick Cheney.

I still believe, nevertheless, that reservations similar to those of mine are not enough to demand his resignation. And more importantly, to compare what is going on in Georgia with the recent popular uprisings in the Middle East is nothing more than nonsense. The reasons are very simple:

The driving force for change in the Middle East has sprung from youth motivated by a lack of hope, as well as disgust. Yet those who took part in the recent demonstrations in Georgia are older people, struggling to cope with low pensions and rising prices. The heart of their beef with the president is the accusation that he has failed to tackle poverty. In contrast, the Georgian youth find their hope in Saakashvili and they are somehow embedded with the regime. Neither they nor the newly emerging middle class want a return to the political instability or corruption that plagued the country before Saakashvili rose to power.

And more importantly, the popular uprisings in the Middle East arose from a deep ground swell. It was spontaneous. The “new revolution” in Georgia, in turn, is one designed from the top. It seems to be compulsive. Accordingly, opposition in Georgia lacks credibility among ordinary Georgians. They are divided. For instance, several opposition parties refused to take part in Burjanadze’s protest.

There is one final trait that needs to be emphasized: In the course of several visits to Georgia, I have closely observed how nationalistic the Georgian people, the youth in particular, are. As long as there is Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose sword of Damocles hangs above the head of Mr. Saakashvili, the Georgian people will continue to rally around their president. I mean, who would be particularly happy to see their president “hung by his balls” by a leader of another country, as Putin so colorfully put his intentions during the war of August 2008.

Friday, 3 June 2011

International law and the Russian “occupation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, by Richard Berge

Antigeopolitics -- In the aftermath of the 2008 August war and Russian recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, Georgia has intensified its efforts to convince the world that these territories are being occupied by the Russian Federation. On the 28 of August 2008, just two days ofter the Russian recognition, the Georgian parliament passed a resolution to the effect that Abkhazia and South Ossetia were occupied territories. This was followed later in October the same year when Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili approved the Law on Occupied Territories. Since then, resolutions to the effect that these territories are under Russian occupation have been put forward by several of Georgia’s closest allies, including Lithuania, the NATO parliamentary assembly, and most recently, in a draft resolution by the United States Congress on the 11th of May. However, the question remains how well the Georgian claim of Russian occupation confirms to international law and the actual facts on the ground. A preliminary analysis concludes that it does so poorly.

First off, the Russian presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia does not satisfy the definition of occupation set by the the Geneva Convention of 1907, article 42 which states that: “Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army,” and article 43 which states that: “The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.” In Abkhazia and South Ossetia authority is in fact placed in the hands of the de facto partially recognised authorities of the two breakaway territories, and not in the hands of the Russian military. The breakaway territories themselves have their own parliaments, governments, army, police force and other state institutions which are in charge of governance and the day to day running of their self-proclaimed republics.

The authorities of both breakaway republics also enjoy broad legitimacy and support by the current populations of the respective territories, which overwhelmingly consider Russian troops to be liberators and allies, and not occupiers. Although the legitimacy of these de facto governments is disputed internationally, it is important to note that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognised as independent by four UN member states, Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru, and that international law does not specify a lower ceiling on the number of states recognising an entity before it can be considered a legitimate member of the international community. Russian troops in both territories do not exhibit the behavior characteristic of an occupying army either.

For example, the Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not patrol the streets or set up checkpoints to control the local population, and are mostly confined to their bases. Although limited housing projects for Russian troops and their families near the bases have been constructed, there is no construction of settlements or other forms of colonisation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by ethnic Russians, akin to, for example, Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Russian control of the de facto borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is also not an arbitrary development, but has been negotiated in accordance with bilateral agreements between Moscow and the de facto authorities of the breakaway republics.

The decision of Georgia and some of its allies to recognise the breakaway republics as occupied by Russia is therefore wholly political, and does not have a particularly strong foundation in either international law or the actual facts on the ground. While the Georgian government hopes that its diplomatic effort to have these territories recognised as occupied will increase the pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops from both regions, the effort is mostly cosmetic, and unlikely to meet with much tangible success. The designation by Georgia and its Western allies of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “occupied” is also designed to reinforce the Georgian narrative of the conflict of being exclusively between Georgia and Russia, and not with the Abkhazians and Ossetians. However, this approach will likely only contribute to the further objectification and alienation from Georgia of the populations of both territories, which will again hamper any real effort to reach a settlement in to these conflicts.

Richard Berge holds a BA in Politics and Georgian language from the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London, and a MA in Politics, Security and Integration from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL. He has worked for the Norwegian Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2009 and the European Centre for Minority Issues in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2010, focusing on human rights, freedom of information and minority rights in both countries. He is currently looking to publish his MA thesis on the political situation of the Armenian minority in Abkhazia.

One Man’s Magnitude, by Sergey Markedonov

Whoever Will Be the New Head of Abkhazia, He Will Have Difficulty Coming Out of Bagapsh’s Shadow
Special to Russia Profile - 06/02/2011

On May 29, 2011, the second President of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh died in Moscow. It’s impossible to exaggerate his importance as a politician and a man in the modern history of the republic: the beginning of its legitimization will always be connected with his name. Since 2008, Abkhazia's independence has been recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru. Within two days of Bagapsh's death, the pacific island of Vanuatu had joined in. And although it is now impossible to say for sure just what kind of country would join this “gang of five” (if any), Abkhazia now has its ticket into the world.

Representatives of the European Union are now saying that a dialogue needs to be established with the republic, even without officially recognizing it. Several detailed publications have now come out in the United States on this very topic (by Alexander Cooley, Lincoln Mitchell, Cory Welt and Samuel Charap).

In Georgia, Bagapsh is seen as the leader of a separatist institution and a “Russian puppet.” As a result, it is understandable that the death of the Abkhaz president passed virtually unnoticed in the country. The only exception to the rule was the “political retiree” Eduard Shevardnadze, who came across the future leader of Abkhazia in his Komsomol and party work in the Soviet period. At that time, natives of Abkhazia rarely worked in the capital of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. It stands to reason that this experience later turned out to be extremely useful to Bagapsh, because being a party activist in the republic during the “stagnation period” didn’t teach Marxist-Leninist dogmas as much as it gave the ability to find complex solutions and to mediate the divergent interests of different interest groups.

Meanwhile, these leadership qualities would subsequently make Abkhazia’s second president highly sought after in his homeland. In 2004 Abkhazia entered the presidential campaigning season, and by then Bagapsh’s predecessor Vladislav Ardzinba, the charismatic leader of the national movement during perestroika, the fall of the Soviet Union and the war with Georgia, had virtually left his post due to serious illness. With the Kremlin’s support all administrative resources in Abkhazia worked in favor of Raul Khadjimba, Bagapsh’s opponent. However Bagapsh not only managed to win the elections, but also managed to avoid internal political confrontation and to find common ground with Moscow. The 2004 campaign refuted many of the West’s well-established clichés concerning “Russian puppets.” The second president of Abkhazia won against the will of the Kremlin, but he didn’t turn his victory into a nationalist anti-Russian weapon. On the contrary, Russia recognized Abkhazia’s independence namely under Bagapsh’s government, although this decision still spurs arguments and controversy inside Russia itself. However, today it defines that new status-quo in the Greater Caucasus, whether we like it or not.

Sergei Bagapsh closed an old chapter in Abkhazia's history and started a new one. Largely thanks to Bagapsh, the highest office in the republic was peacefully handed over from one person to the next. Bagapsh maintained the political opposition (not even persecuting those who had openly campaigned against him during elections) and the freedom of the press. In 2008, with Russia’s help, he obtained a guarantee of safety and noninterference on behalf of Georgia. At the same time, Bagapsh swept the “Georgian factor” under the rug and began massive “Russianization,” meaning everything from the penetration of Russian business giants (Rosneft) to the appearance of military bases and Russian border guards, from questions of property and the involvement of the Russian Orthodox Church in the religious life of the republic to interpretations of the historical topics of the 19th century. Today Russia’s role, and the price of its friendship to be more specific, is the leading topic of internal discussion in Abkhazia.

After Bagapsh's death, this topic will become one of the central elements in the presidential election campaigns. Meanwhile, passions will flare in the course of the battle for the presidential seat. Abkhazia’s second president left this world without naming a successor, without a political “last will and testament.” Consequently all contenders for the post will be starting from “square one.” The acting Vice President Alexander Ankvab will probably have an administrative and psychological advantage. Like Bagapsh, he also has experience working in Georgia during the Soviet years (in the Ministry of Internal Affairs). He has the reputation of an uncompromising opponent of corruption (there have been several attempts against his life), as a harsh and open person that stands in the way of many. Ankvab could not get along with Ardzinba in the 1990s, so he was forced to spend many years practicing business in Moscow, without becoming just a passive observer. Ankvab’s support during 2004 and 2005 meant a lot to Bagapsh’s ultimate success. Subsequently he worked on Bagapsh’s team as a prime minister and then as his vice president. And that’s why this person will contend for Abkhazia’s second president’s political legacy more than any other.

Sergei Shamba, Abkhazia’s chief diplomat for many years, may also become a strong player in the elections, since he is involved in all meaningful forms of negotiation with Georgia, the Russian Federation, international institutions, and ambassadors in Tbilisi. For the last two years Sahmba, having been named the head of the government, advanced considerably in the field of internal politics. We shouldn’t also discount Raul Khadjimba as a potential contender. Yes, he was defeated in the 2004 to 2005 and the 2009 elections. But let’s not forget that in 2004, he was Vladislav Ardzinba’s successor and had the Kremlin’s support. During the Soviet period Khadjimba served in the KGB, and has established good contacts with the Russian “siloviki.” Theoretically, all this could play in Khadjimba’s favor after Bagapsh’s death.

No matter who we will call the next president of Abkhazia, he will inevitably have to address Bagapsh’s legacy in his work. He’s also doomed to face incessant “comparisons” to his celebrated predecessor.

Sergei Markedonov, Ph.D., is a political analyst and a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Russia and Eurasia Program, Washington, DC.

Source: Russia Profile

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Independence means stability – Abkhazian foreign minister

Independence means stability – Abkhazian foreign minister from Abkhaz World on Vimeo.

RT, 02 June 2011 -- By gaining independence in 2008 and seeking international recognition Abkhazia got more stability, co-operation, investment and real perspectives for the future, shared Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister Maksim Gvinjia.

Remembering the late Abkhazian President Sergey Bagapsh, who has been laid to rest on Thursday, Gvinjia acknowledged that Bagapsh was a smart, tolerant, strategic thinker who created a stable political system in the republic.

Sergey Bagapsh, aged 62, died last weekend in a Moscow medical center after undergoing a surgery on his right lung. The next day his lungs stopped functioning, he was put on an artificial respirator, but later on doctors registered other complications which made it impossible to improve his critical condition.

Thanks to Sergey Bagapsh’s personal efforts, Abkhazia succeeded in setting up relations with countries in Latin America.

We consider most of the ways to achieve international political for a but there are significant obstacles imposed by Western countries, by the EU and the US,” Maksim Gvinjia told RT, stressing that, particularly in Latin America, the US attempted to put maximum pressure on the local governments not to let to recognize Abkhazia or establish diplomatic relations with the republic, which proclaimed independence from Georgia nearly 20 years ago.

We are confronted not by actually Georgian diplomacy – we are confronted by the American diplomacy,” he concluded.

Tbilisi may maintain that Abkhazia is a part of Georgia, but “saying that Abkhazia is a part of Georgia is equal to saying that Georgia is still a part of Russia – since Russia inherited obligations of the former Soviet Union.”

The so-called “territorial integrity of Georgia” was recognized in violation of the international law so there is no use in repeating it over and over again, believes Gvinjia.

The 08/08/08 war in South Ossetia only deteriorated Abkhazia further from Georgia, remembers the Abkhazian foreign minister. “We have not received any positive signal from Georgia.”

In reality, Georgia continues to maintain an embargo on Abkhazia and do everything within its powers to prevent the country from conducting international business, and on top of all that provocations and kidnapping of Abkhazians done from the Georgian side of the border continue, so official Tbilisi might say whatever it wants, he maintains.

The most important thing is that we recognize ourselves,” Maksim Gvinjia said.

Source: RT

Sergei Bagapsh, he came to give freedom… By Nikolai Zlobin

The second president of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh passed away on May 29, 2011

Sergei Bagapsh was a strong and intelligent political leader. He was composed, courageous, cheerful and sincere, possessing great talent of a true high-level politician and an undeniably charismatic personality. Bagapsh came to power against the will of Moscow, but made it recognize him as a real player and unlike most of politicians of the post-soviet countries he had sincere support of his own people. It’s astonishing that such a small country like Abkhazia had two of such distinguished political leaders as Bagapsh and his predecessor, the first president of Abkhazia – Vladislav Ardzinba.

It is regularly forgotten that the independence of Abkhazia started not with it’s recognition by Russia in August 2008, but as a result of its own effort to achieve independence and the victory in the armed conflict with Georgia 15 year before. And Russian recognition of Abkhazia’s independence was not a charitable gesture, but was aimed at fulfilling the strategy and national interest of Russia in the region and in the international politics altogether. From the beginning I supported that decision and still consider it to be a very strong move by Medvedev. As a result of it, Russia not only gained an ally in the destabilized region, but also a new opportunity to protect and promote its interests in the Caucasus region, whilst Georgia has lost Abkhazia as a result of its own political mistakes and miscalculations.

The work of Sergei Bagapsh and his team made the independence of Abkhazia and the likelihood of it succeeding as a sovereign (and democratic) state much more realistic. It’s hard to forget the wise decision made by Sergei Bagapsh during the conflict in 2008 when he refused to listen to any promises, persuasions or threats coming from different sides. Although the obstacles on the path of independent Abkhazia are still there, a lot of them in fact having appeared only after the fact of recognition by Russia.

The passing of president Bagapsh came as a shock and it is a grim tragedy to the small country. But I know that among his colleagues there are people who can continue his work on building democratic and independent Abkhazia and succeed in acquiring broader international recognition. It is quite clear, that getting this recognition along with developing the national economy would become the main goal of the next president.

In fact the forthcoming presidential election will inevitably become a test of the maturity of Abkhazian establishment and society altogether. It will become a test of effectiveness of the government system that exists in Abkhazia, a system that is actually significantly more democratic than those of Abkhazia’s neighbors. It will become a test of country’s resolution to have a true independence, not an independence paid for by someone from outside. It’s possible that we will witness increased international activity concerning Abkhazia in the next several months as well: Russia, Georgia, Turkey and, of course, the Western countries. The presidential elections in Abkhazia will become a test of Moscow’s respect towards its own decision to recognize Abkhazia’s independence, since Abkhazia is more than capable of electing its own new leader. For Georgia it will be a test of its ability to build proper system of national interests. And for the West it will become a reality check and a test on their ability to recognize the political realities of Caucasus region and to base their decisions on those realities, instead of some abstract ideological concepts. In the recent years this process of international involvement with Abkhazia has slowly started to expand, mostly due to the diplomacy, patience and active work of Sukhum.

The process of development of new political geography that started two decades ago is still taking place in the Post-Soviet World. Sergei Bagapsh contributed greatly to Abkhazia’s role as one of the players and not as a passive hostage of someone else’s decisions and interests in this process. The people of Abkhazia must be grateful to this person and so should be Russia. I believe that a time will come, when the role that Sergei Bagapsh played in the history of Post-Soviet World will be perceived differently even in Georgia. He was a true man of peace and could quote Pericles who had managed to keep Athens out of war for 15 years that he had “never been a cause of any Athenean to wear mourning”. Today not many politicians can say the same.

Nikolai Zlobin
Director of the Russia and Eurasia Project at the World Security Institute in Washington.