South and North Ossetians gathered for a congress in Tskhinvali to display their aspiration to reunite. South Ossetia’s President Eduard Kokoity (L) and North Ossetia’s head Taimuraz Mamsurov (R).
Photo: Valery Melnikov
All-Ossetia Congress Resists Georgian Delegates
// Tskhinvali is getting ready to face off the alternative government
Situation in South Ossetia exacerbated during the weekend. Several days before the opening of the All-Ossetia Congress, which is to take place in Tskhinvali on Tuesday, shooting began and casualties appeared in the conflict zone. The news about the so-called peace march, which Dmitry Sanakoev’s ‘alternative government’ wants to organize, added fuel to the fire. In response, South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity gave orders to the security structures under his command to “use force for self-defense”.
“If the march takes place, they’ll organize an orange revolution”
The 6th All-Ossetia Congress opens in Tskhinvali on Tuesday. On Monday, 500 delegates from different regions of Russia arrived to the city, while the local youth organizations together with the Russian ones held press conferences devoted to South Ossetia’s struggle for independence and the support for that struggle in the Russian society.
Ossetians hold their congress once in four years. The tradition was initiated by North Ossetian organization Styr Nykhas (Big Council). Five previous congresses passed in Vladikavkaz, and South Ossetia’s representatives were just guests there. This year, for the first time, the congress is to pass in Tskhinvali. It is to convince the Georgian authorities and the world that South and North Ossetians want to reunite and are not going to acknowledge Georgia’s territorial right on South Ossetia. Its organizers believe the congress is crucially important right now, when the Kosovo issue will be solved in just a few months. South Ossetia links Kosovo’s fate directly with determining its own status. Tskhinvali believes that Russia will recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia right after Kosovo’s independence is acknowledged, while it is necessary to prepare the basis for it now.
Certainly, Georgian authorities dislike the idea of the congress. They have practically convinced the international community that Dmitry Sanakoev’s alternative government represents a considerable part of the South Ossetian nation, and that it is capable to represent the nation in talks with Tbilisi. That is why South Ossetia expected provocations from Georgia on Monday. For instance, the South Ossetian authorities had warned the population against the so-called peace march long before the congress.
“Georgia does not want the congress, because the whole world will see that Ossetians have already had their self-determination long ago,” said Ruslan Bzarov, history professor from North Ossetia, one of the congress’ initiators, and apologist of the idea to unite both Ossetias. “A nation’s expression of will is the basis of the entire international law. Georgian authorities know that if the people at the congress once again declare their stand for independence, it will be very difficult for Saakashvili to convince all those organizations which Georgia wants to join -- the EU and NATO -- of the opposite. I think that Georgian authorities will do everything to find a pretext for opening aggression against South Ossetia. That is the purpose of the peace march,” said Ruslan Bzarov.
South Ossetian authorities think so as well. The border between South Ossetia and Georgia was closed on Monday, and the unrecognized republic’s officials said the peace march might lead to a new war. “If the march participants enter Tskhinvali, they will organize an orange revolution here. That is why we will not allow the march to take place,” the officials said. President Eduard Kokoity gave orders to South Ossetia’s security units not to respond to provocations, but to “use force for self-defense”.
“The peace march, scheduled by Georgian authorities for the days when the congress takes place, strongly resembles the march held before the beginning of the Georgia-Ossetia conflict in the early 90s,” said Oleg Teziev, first commander of South Ossetia’s army and the republic’s former prime minister. “Back then, the march led to war. Moreover, Georgia now realizes, as never before, that it’s losing Ossetia. The congress takes place while the republic is undergoing changes for the better: the pipeline construction, in which Russia participates, and the electrification of villages. Meanwhile, Georgia has nothing to be proud of: the people live poorly, while Saakashvili is just feeding them with promises,” said Teziev.
In the afternoon on Monday, there appeared information that the preparation for the march had started in Tamarasheni and Kurta (Georgian villages in South Ossetia). Allegedly, there was a large crowd of people with Georgian flags. Some news agencies even said the march had already begun. However, the information was not confirmed till late evening, although Tamarasheni is just a half-hour walk away from Tskhinvali.
“One should be an idiot to organize a peace march”
Dmitry Sanakoev’s alternative administration, located in Kurta village, assured “there is no and will be no peace march”.
“In late August, we created a youth organization ‘Kokoity – faendarast!’. Don’t worry, there is nothing bad in the phrase: it just means ‘Kokoity – goodbye and have a good trip!”. We also wanted to hold a congress of Ossetians from the entire Georgia in Tamarasheni. Yet, there began unrest, there appeared news that Kokoity’s army would shoot at everyone who would cross the border from our side. So, we gave up the idea. Moreover, there was not a word about peace marches. You see, one should be an idiot to organize a peace march while being at gunpoint,” said a source in Sanakoev’s administration.
Dmitry Sanakoev’s associate, leader of ‘Kokoity – faendarast!’ movement Vladimir Sanakoev confirmed that neither his organization, nor anyone on the part of Dmitry Sanakoev plans any marches. “All that is Kokoity’s fib. They see that people are joining our organization, and they need to stop it somehow. Tskhinvali’s propaganda took up that fib, so as to make everything look like as if we want war. Strange as it may seem, Russia’s Foreign Ministry believed in the fib, and even warned Georgian authorities that a march like that is inadmissible. However, it is ridiculous that the foreign ministry of a country as large as Russia should respond to gossips,” said Vladimir Sanakoev.
Sanakoev’s associates explain there were crowds of people in Tamarasheni and Kurta because of the first academic day in Georgian schools. “Due to heat, school year in Georgia starts on September 17, instead of September 1, for many years now. On this day, there are lots of people in all schools, especially in the villages of the conflict zone. So, special attention is given to these schools. For instance, the school in Kurta village is included into UNESCO’s program. That is why there is a large delegation of the Georgian government and foreign representatives in the village,” the alternative administration said.
However, first combat clashes in the conflict zone have already happened. During the night between Saturday and Sunday, Georgian and South Ossetian units engaged in a violent fire-fight in the Pronsk Gorge in South Ossetia, not far from the Georgian village of Okona. In this region, Georgian and South Ossetian villages are located in chessboard order, and the adversary armed units are separated just by a few tens of meters. Consequently, Paata Khachapuridze, 34, who was visiting his relatives in Okona village, was heavily wounded in the fire-fight. Several houses in the village were damaged. Georgia fixated the bullet marks, and sent the data to the command of collective peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone and to the OSCE observers.
Wounded Khachapuridze said that he left his relatives’ house in his car and set off for home. He encountered an Ossetian patrol on the village’s edge. The patrol ordered him to stop, but the driver got frightened and drove faster. The patrol opened fire on the car, causing fire from the Georgian side in response. However, South Ossetia’s police claim the fire was opened by Georgian forces.
Another incident happened a little earlier in South Ossetia’s Karelsky region. Unknown individuals bombarded a car with Georgian citizens. One of the citizens is now in hospital. One more clash happened in South Ossetia’s Znaursky region; a Georgian citizen died. These incidents caused a quite tough response from the command of collective peacekeeping forces. The command’s statement says: “The fact that the republic’s citizens possess large quantity of weapons and ammunition leads to various incidents, unjustified human losses, and does not let the situation in the conflict zone become stable”.
All the Article in Russian as of Sep. 18, 2007