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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Aug 15, 2008

150808.jpgTODAY: War uproots 100,000; irregular add-ons to Russian army are “terrorizing”; aid workers having trouble accessing areas; Vitaly Churkin says Russia’s role in Gori was humanitarian; Rice to visit Tbilisi; US and Poland agree on missile shield; “the Obama angle”. The war between Georgia and Russia has reportedly uprooted more than 100,000 people. Georgia said Russian troops still control one-third of the country, and that the Russian army has brought in “thousands and thousands of irregulars” who are terrorizing the country. Humanitarian aid groups and UN monitors are reportedly unable to reach large parts of Georgia due to insecure conditions, and Human Rights Watch says it has evidence that Russia used cluster bombs in civilian areas of Georgia. Russia’s claims of “genocide” in South Ossetia are coming under question. In the eyes of Russian citizens, their country is “the peacemaker”. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN Ambassador, says that Georgia’s strategic city of Gori should not be classified as being “in ruins” because it still has running water and electricity, and classifies Russian troop action there as “humanitarian”. Russian troops are again stationed in the city, having previously retreated, and journalists are reportedly coming under fire there.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to push for a resolution to the conflict on her visit to Tbilisi amid worsening relations with Russia, which the US is accusing of having pursued a policy of scorched earth in Georgia. The US and Poland have finally reached an agreement to place an American missile defense base on Polish territory, “in the strongest reaction so far to Russia’s military operation in Georgia.” This will, of course, “cool” Polish-Russian relations. Many analysts are apparently explaining the situation using “the Obama angle”.Sergei Lavrov “is a careful and experienced diplomat, not given to shooting off his mouth. That makes his comments all the more unsettling.” Lavrov says Georgia can “forget about” getting back its two breakaway provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. President Dmitry Medvedev says he will support independence bids by the two regions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Moscow to discuss the two countries’ strategic partnership, but it is thought she will press Medvedev for moderation with Georgia.Russia says it can’t see any reason why its WTO membership bid should be delayed. NATO has confirmed that it barred a Russian ship from joining its multinational anti-terrorism exercise in the Mediterranean.The BBC has compiled a number of “key statements” made over the last week regarding the conflict. Russia has reportedly revealed “the technical backwardness of its military”, and plans to increase military funding.PHOTO: Georgian women on Thursday at a checkpoint set up by Russian soldiers in Gori, Georgia. Joao Silva for The New York Times.