RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Aug 13, 2008

130808.jpgTODAY: Six-step peace process agreed on; Medvedev calls day of mourning; Russian tanks fill Gori; the PR war continues; Moscow’s Zimbabwe stance “hypocrisy”; British Foreign Secretary weighs in; Russia claims South Ossetia war crimes, Georgia files lawsuit for ethnic cleansing; Georgia beats Russia in Olympic volleyball. President Dmitry Medvedev and President Mikheil Saakashvili have agreed on a framework to end the war of the last five days. The peace plan, brokered by French President Nicholas Sarkozy in his role as current EU President, “may make it easier for the EU to set aside deep differences over who to blame for the war in the breakaway Georgian region.” Medvedev, who apparently ordered troops to stop military operations in Georgia before meeting with Sarkozy for peace talks, has declared today a national day of mourning. Referring to Saakashvili as a “lunatic”, he also demanded that the breakaway regions be allowed to vote on whether or not they want to join Russia. At a reading of the peace plan yesterday, Medvedev said that troops from both sides “would be withdrawn to their positions prior to the start of hostilities”. Reports suggest that, despite an agreed ceasefire, Russian tanks have entered the already devastated town of Gori.

At a rally yesterday, Georgians cheered Saakashvili’s vow to punish Russia. Russian human rights activists have written an open letter calling on the international community to stand up to Russia’s “aggression” and to remove the country from the Group of Eight. EU response remains divided. The US has cancelled a joint naval exercise with Russia, and is “scrambling” to find other methods of punishment. “The Bush administration was never going to back Georgia militarily in a fight with Russia.” US officials say that Russia’s WTO membership bid is still nowhere near ready. NATO meanwhile says its membership pledge to Georgia still stands. A Russian Black Sea Fleet warship has reportedly joined a NATO-led counter-terror operation in the Mediterranean.The Kremlin is openly organizing journalist visits to South Ossetia. More anti-Georgian rhetoric from Mikhail Gorbachev, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov writes in today’s Financial Times, defending Russia’s actions and saying suggestions that Moscow’s military incursion into South Ossetia was an attempt to topple the Georgian government are “palpable nonsense”. “Putin would die laughing if he read this week’s American newspapers.” On the ongoing war of words and the battle for public opinion. Pro-Kremlin youth groups have been rallying against Georgia in Moscow.Russia’s invasion of Georgia, “a sovereign nation, now renders the key foundation of its argument against the Zimbabwe resolution moot.”The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has accused Russia of “blatant aggression” against Georgia and called for “proper engagement on the ground”. He also urged Russia to back up its claims of war crimes in South Ossetia. The Georgian security council has filed a lawsuit against Russia in the International Court of Justice for alleged ethnic cleansing.
Russian hackers have been continuing their attacks on Georgian websites, including those of the Georgian President and parliament. Reports say that Georgia’s internet and key websites were attacked by hackers “weeks before the armed conflict with Russia”.Georgia beats Russia in beach volleyball.PHOTO: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, speaks as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, right, looks on, during a press conference following their talks in Tbilisi, Georgia, early Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Georgy Abdaladze)