Ringing In a New Thiefdom

kokoity082708.jpg The former wrestler and South Ossetian separatist Eduard Kokoity is quite a character. I’m not sure what his first act of state was as president of the newly “independent” South Ossetia – drinking three liters of wine, organizing mass photo shoots for the media of “celebrating” citizens, or declaring that Russia shall have a new military base there. Not many would call this a particularly auspicious or promising birth of a new nation.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says that “South Ossetian independence is a joke. We are talking about a smugglers’ paradise of 60,000 people financed by the Russian security services. No one can seriously consider that as an independent state,” while Yulia Latynina has commented that Kokoity has been earning a virtual fortune in funding from the FSB to permanently maintain the fight against Georgia (yet despite a budget of $800 million to “defend” South Ossetia, the money found a way disappear).There are of course the widespread reports of Kokoity’s sudden, last minute rise in South Ossetian politics with the backing for the Tedeyev clan, which earns millions from illegal smuggling via the Transcaucasian highway. Once he was able to snatch away control of the only revenue generator in the region, he purged the Tedeyevs from his government and disarmed their militias. Purging is an art for Kokoity, and he used the pretext of the war to sack his entire cabinet last week.I’m somewhat surprised that the media isn’t keeping a closer eye on this guy’s background.Image Source: AFP/Getty Images