The last stretch in Eduard Kokoity's long road to South Ossetian independence came thanks to a short war with Georgia.
Photo: Dmitry Dukhanin
Duma and Fed. Council for Secession
// Russian legislators favor recognizing Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence
The Russian Federation Council and State Duma unanimously adopted an appeal to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It was an unusually easy procedure. The leaders of the republics, Sergey Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity, were invited to speak to the legislators, after which they received unanimous support.
The Federation Council session devoted to the issue began at 10:00. The issue was placed on the agenda before the beginning of the session. When the session, at which Bagapsh and Kokoity spoke, was finished speaker Sergey Mironov announced that the senators unanimously support Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s desire for independence and have sent a communiqué to the president to that effect. The Federation Council also authorized the president to enlarge the peacekeeping Russian contingents in the conflict zones on Georgian territory.
With their mission accomplished at the upper house of parliament, Bagapsh and Kokoity proceeded to the Duma, where the walls are hung with photographs of the destruction in Tskhinvali. South Ossetia was not originally a scheduled topic of discussion at the Duma, but speaker Boris Gryzlov corrected the schedule as he opened the session. He told the legislators that, in connection with the Georgian aggression, the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs had prepared an appeal to the president on the need to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the Committee on Foreign Affairs had prepared an appeal to the member states of the United Nations requesting that they recognize them. The Duma supported the initiatives with enthusiasm. Bagapsh took the podium. He first explained why he was requesting the recognition of Abkhazian independence in the Duma.
“The Abkhazian side has limited opportunities to make the case for its strivings. Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers chose a union with Russia. Neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia will ever again be in a single state with Georgia,” Bagapsh said.
Thus making it clear that he had nowhere else to go, Bagapsh listed Georgian atrocities. In particular, he accused Georgia of planning a “military adventure with the use of a group of international terrorists in Kodori Gorge.” The Abkhazian leadership intends to repulse that threat mainly with the aid of the Russian military.
“Concluding a treaty on military cooperation with Russia is very important for us,” Bagapsh acknowledged.
Sukhumi promises to show its gratitude to Moscow. After it recognizes Abkhazia’s independence, Bagapsh said, Russia can strengthen its position there as its leading investor. At the end of his speech, Bagapsh urged the Duma to take advantage of “the favorable geopolitical conditions” to recognize Abkhazia.
South Ossetian President Kokoity made an analogical request of the legislators. He thanked Russia for its “surgically exact operation to force the aggressor to peace” and gave a long account of the plans prepared by instructors from the United States to seize South Ossetia aggressively.
“In the plans of forces hostile to Russia, a strike at South Ossetia and Abkhazia was supposed to be the beginning of a project to tear the North Caucasus away from the Russian Federation,” Kokoity informed lawmakers.
Kokoity was followed by chairman of the Committee on CIS Affairs, Alexey Ostrovsky, who read the appeal to Medvedev to his colleagues. The main idea of the document was that “now the question of the possibility of restoring the integrity of Georgia by a political course has no more promise.” Ostrovsky, and chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev, who spoke after him, followed the idea to its logical conclusion that “South Ossetia and Abkhazia have a much greater claim to international recognition than Kosovo, for example.” Most of the appeal to the world parliamentarians urging them to support the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was taken up by accusations against “certain states making claims on their own positions in the Caucasus region.” Western media were also criticized for “endless rebroadcasts of the disjointed demagoguery of Saakashvili and the gagging of the real witnesses to genocide.”
Finally, representatives of the four Duma factions were given the floor. They declared their unreserved support for the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“This is test of our resolve,” warned Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. He began his speech by addressing his audience as “Comrades!” and continued it in an alarmist tone. “Today, the will of all of Russia is needed, of all the parties, to understand, perceive the substance of the processes occurring and to act as a united team,” he said. Recognition alone is not enough. “We have to conclude the appropriate treaties immediately that will guarantee the security of those republics,” he said, and expressed regret that Russian forces did not bring the affair to a close. “We should have bombed the entire military infrastructure of the Saakashvilists so that it could not be restored,” he said. The Russian president, in Zyuganov’s view, should “call an urgent closed meeting of the Security Council and discuss everything connected with national security.”
LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky was also less than completely satisfied with Moscow’s conduct during the war. “We should have taken the whole territory of Georgia under control,” he said, “arrested all Georgian officers and taken them here, like to Guantanamo, arrested Saakashvili and handed him over for trial by a military tribunal and gone to the border with Turkey.”
After such discussion, the results of the vote were predictable. There were 447 votes for the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and 450 for the appeal to parliamentarians of the world to support that independence, that is, the entire membership of the Duma voted for it, even though there were many empty seats. After the session, the MPs did not hide their emotions. Many hugged each other and waved toward the balcony, where Kokoity and Bagapsh were seated.
“You will see,” a member of the South Ossetian delegation assured the Kommersant correspondent, “Medvedev will follow the Duma’s call day by day and no one will be especially resentful.” But, a few hours later, highly critical responses began to pour in from foreign capitals. “From a legal point of view, those decisions do not play a real role in the future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” said Georgian Minister of Reintegration Timur Yakobashvili. “They cannot become independent republics just by the decision of the Russian parliament.”
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza said that any Russian decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia would be a violation of international law and Russian obligations to observe the territorial integrity of Georgia, as set out in numerous resolutions of the UN Security Council. When Russia put down a separatist uprising in Chechnya, Bryza recalled, the U.S. did not dispute its right to preserve its territorial integrity, although it had expressed concern over similar operations. Therefore, the U.S. is now counting on Russia to be consistent, especially considering the danger of opening in a “Pandora’s box.” The U.S. hopes Russia will refrain from taking any action on that on the topic.
“We hope the president and government of Russia will not heed the urging of the parliament,” Thomas Steg, official spokesman for the German government said. Judging from the statements made yesterday by the nation’s leaders, that hope is dim.
All the Article in Russian as of Aug. 26, 2008