Russia’s war on Ukraine transfixes the world, and for obvious reasons. The sheer brutality and the size of the attack on Europe’s second-biggest state grab all the attention. But under the radar, there lurks another place where Russia’s actions are closely watched, feared, and even anticipated should the offensive in Ukraine present even short-term opportunities to the Kremlin.
Georgia is the other country mentioned in Russia’s security demands made in December and addressed to NATO and the EU. The country has waged war with Russia — in 2008 — has been invaded and has two regions occupied (Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, often incorrectly referred to by the Soviet-invented term of South Ossetia.) As you would expect, Georgia is focusing very closely indeed on developments.
Russia’s decision to confront its “Ukraine problem” is only a part of a larger program of pushing Western influence away from its immediate neighborhood and restructuring the European security order. And Georgia is a critical piece of the puzzle. The fear is that if Russia is victorious, it would turn its attention to Georgia. An immediate military campaign is unlikely, but the Kremlin might plausibly extend demands that the country renounces the promise made through NATO’s 2008 Bucharest summit that it will one day become a member. Russia could use its small, but heavily armed forces in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali to threaten Tbilisi, which is some 50-60 kilometers away from the occupied zones.
This fits the new order Russia has been seeking in the South Caucasus following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war of 2020. The 3+3 initiative which aims to gather together the three small South Caucasus states and Russia, Turkey, and Iran, is viewed with suspicion by most Georgians. But if Russia wins in Ukraine, Georgia may find it hard to resist the pressure.
This partially explains why the Georgian government has been so careful about its position on Russia’s invasion. The mood is febrile, as indicated by days of anti-government demonstrations following Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s statement that his country would not impose sanctions on Russia. Later on, Georgian volunteers were reportedly prevented from flying to Ukraine (later denied by the Ukrainian ambassador himself), which caused President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to recall his envoy from Georgia.
Internal pressures and wider geopolitical motives put Georgia in a precarious geopolitical position. It needs to simultaneously look attentively at how Ukraine-EU ties develop, not anger Russia, and also respond to wider pro-Ukrainian sentiment. Many remember how Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko enthusiastically supported Georgia in 2008 and even visited the capital when Russian troops were just 30 kilometers away.
By attempting a nuanced approach, Georgia may be running a risk. In an age of near-unified sentiment against Russia, neutrality could be harmful to a country that made its formal application for European Union (EU) membership on March 3. The war in Ukraine also indicates the status quo ante is no longer feasible. The EU is now emerging as a geopolitical player following its actions against Russia in the last week and the European Parliament has backed Ukrainian membership. Moldova too has applied.
Much will depend on how far Russia’s invasion progresses in Ukraine. Cracks in Western resolve will only embolden the Kremlin and push it to act against other neighboring states seeking EU and NATO membership. This precarious geopolitical situation and Georgia is trying to walk a fine line.
But here a longer term perspective should prevail — the sudden and near-unprecedented Western unity of 2022 is likely to remain.
Russia is turning into what analysts refer to as a “fortress” and is preparing to launch a battle, non-military or otherwise, from the Baltic to the Caspian Sea. Despite its dismal military performance in Ukraine, Russia has significant military and intelligence capabilities; the West has enormous economic, diplomatic and soft power. In the end, the democratic world will prevail against a Kremlin that has painted itself into a corner.
How we get from here to there is a question that may present some difficult answers.
Author’s note: first published in cepa
Ukraine: Amnesty International revealed the unpleasant truth
Ukrainian forces have threatened civilians by setting up bases and operating weapons systems in populated areas, including schools and hospitals, as they battled the Russian intervention that began in February, Amnesty International said in a statement.
“Such a tactic violates international humanitarian law and endangers civilians, as it turns civilian objects into military targets. The Russian strikes that followed in populated areas killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure,” the statement said.
– Amnesty International has documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when conducting operations in populated areas – said Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
He pointed out that the defensive position does not free the Ukrainian army from respecting international humanitarian law.
The organization’s researchers spent several weeks from April to July investigating Russian attacks in Kharkiv, Donbass and the Mykolaiv region.
The organization inspected the attacked sites, interviewed survivors, eyewitnesses, relatives of the victims of the attack, and carried out remote detection and analysis of weapons. During those investigations, evidence was found that Ukrainian forces were firing from heavily populated areas and were themselves inside civilian buildings in 19 towns and villages in these regions. The organization analyzed satellite images to further confirm some of these incidents – it is emphasized.
According to Amnesty International, most of the residential areas where the soldiers were located were kilometers away from the front.
– Viable alternatives were available that would not endanger civilians, such as military bases or densely wooded areas nearby, or other structures further away from residential areas. In the cases it has documented, Amnesty International is not aware that the Ukrainian military, located in civilian structures in residential areas, asked or helped civilians to evacuate, which is a failure to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians. announcement.
Directed shooting from populated areas
Amnesty says survivors and eyewitnesses of Russian attacks in Donbass, Kharkiv and the Mykolaiv region told researchers that the Ukrainian military was conducting operations near their homes at the time of the attacks, exposing the areas to counterfire from Russian forces. Amnesty International researchers have witnessed such behavior in numerous locations.
International humanitarian law requires all parties to a conflict to avoid locating, to the greatest extent possible, military targets within or near densely populated areas. Other obligations to protect civilians from the effects of attacks include removing civilians from the vicinity of military targets and providing effective warning of attacks that may affect the civilian population.
– The army was stationed in the house next to ours and my son often brought food to the soldiers. I begged him several times to stay away, because I feared for his safety. That afternoon, when the attack happened, my son was in our yard and I was in the house. He died on the spot. His body was mutilated. Our house was partially destroyed – said the mother of a man (50), who was killed in a rocket attack on June 10 in a village south of Nikolaev.
Amnesty International found military equipment and uniforms in the house next to hers.
Nikola, who lives in the block in Lisichansk in Donbass, which the Russians regularly targeted and killed at least one person, said that it is not clear to him “why our army fires from the cities and not from the fields”.
Another resident said that “there is definitely military activity in the neighborhood.”
– We hear “outgoing” and then “incoming” fire” – he said.
Amnesty International teams saw soldiers using residential buildings located 20 meters from the entrance to the underground shelter, which was used by residents and where an elderly man was killed.
In one Donbas town on May 6, Russian forces used cluster munitions over a neighborhood of mostly one- or two-story houses where Ukrainian forces were manning artillery. Shrapnel damaged the walls of the house where Ana (70) lives with her son and 95-year-old mother.
In early July, a farm worker was injured when Russian forces attacked an agricultural warehouse in the Nikolayev area. Hours after the attack, Amnesty International researchers witnessed the presence of Ukrainian military personnel and vehicles in the grain storage area, and witnesses confirmed that the military was using the warehouse, which is located across from a farm where civilians live and work.
As researchers surveyed damage to residential and public buildings in Kharkiv and villages in the Donbass and east of Mykolaiv, they heard gunfire from nearby Ukrainian military positions.
In Bakhmut, several residents said the Ukrainian military was using a building barely 20 meters across the street from the high-rise. On May 18, a Russian rocket hit the front of the building, partially destroying five apartments and damaging nearby buildings.
Military bases in hospitals
Amnesty International researchers witnessed Ukrainian forces using hospitals as de facto military bases in five locations. In the two cities, dozens of soldiers rested and ate in hospitals. In another town, soldiers fired from near a hospital.
A Russian airstrike on April 28 injured two workers at a medical laboratory in the suburbs of Kharkiv after Ukrainian forces set up a base in the compound.Using hospitals for military purposes is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.
Military bases in schools
The Ukrainian army routinely set up bases in schools in the cities and villages of the Donbass and in the Mykolaiv region. Schools have been temporarily closed to students since the beginning of the conflict, but in most cases the buildings were located near civilian settlements.
In 22 of the 29 schools visited, researchers either found soldiers using the premises or found evidence of current or previous military activity – including the presence of military equipment, ammunition, military ration packs and military vehicles.
Russian forces attacked many schools used by Ukrainian forces. In at least three cities, after Russian bombing of schools, Ukrainian soldiers moved to other schools nearby, putting surrounding neighborhoods at risk of similar attacks.
In a city east of Odessa, Amnesty witnessed Ukrainian soldiers using civilian areas for accommodation and staging areas, including basing armored vehicles under trees in residential areas and using two schools located in densely populated residential areas.
Amnesty International’s report was not a surprise to me as an analyst. Since the beginning of the conflict, all of us who follow the behavior and tactics of the Ukrainian army have witnessed such tactics of the Ukrainian army, which are strictly prohibited by international law. Also, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned about the behavior of the Ukrainian army that threatens innocent civilians. However, the fact that the respected Amnesty International writes about it in its report represents a strategic turn. Bearing in mind that this is an extremely respected Western non-governmental organization, we can safely say that even in the West, the opinion is slowly growing that the criminal behavior of the Ukrainian army will no longer be tolerated.
Both Zelensky and Poroshenko Acknowledged They Came to Power Illegally
A coup is an illegal way to come to power, and both of Ukraine’s Presidents after the February 2014 overthrow of the democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych acknowledged that the overthrow of him violated the law, and that the government which became installed after Yanukovych’s overthrow has no legitimacy whatsoever — that the “Maidan of dignity” and “democratic revolution” was actually a hoax.
On 22 June 2015, I headlined “Ukraine’s President Poroshenko Admits Overthrow Of Yanukovych Was A Coup” and I provided full online documentation both of his allegation and of its being entirely true. I even documented that on 26 February 2014 (the final day of the actual coup) he had informed the EU that this was the case, and that they were surprised to hear it but ignored it. The U.S. allegations that Yanukovych had been overthrown by a spontaneous and mass-supported revolution against him — and which were clearly a lie even as early as 4 February 2014 but a lie that was pumped ceaselessly in the ‘news’-media regardless of that evidence — those U.S. allegations were thoroughly documented, in a 12 March 2014 video-compilation that was posted to youtube, to be false, a hoax, and yet nonetheless, this fact continued to be ignored in U.S.-&-allied ‘news’-media, as-if truth had nothing whatsoever to do with news-reporting and analysis — as-if evidence doesn’t matter, regardless of how extensive and reliable and conclusive it is. As-if The West is floating on lies, and its public won’t ever much care about that fact. (That’s the assumption; and, if by “the public” is meant the nation’s press, then that assumption is unquestionably true, because the press don’t care about it, at all — they instead support it; they support this status-quo, of lies-based ‘history’.)
Then, on 11 February 2020, Ukraine’s own Interfax News Agency issued the following news-report (as auto-translated into English):
11 February 2020
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, believes that the investigation and completion of the tragic events on Independence Square during the Revolution of Dignity is the most difficult matter [to discuss] in the country.
“Lost evidence, documents. There are no people, there are no witnesses. Some say that in general, in places after this tragedy, all these events have been removed by many. The most difficult case that we have in our country is the Maidan,” he said in an exclusive interview with “Interfax-Ukraine” agency.
Zelensky pointed out that “everyone is engaged in these matters”.
“I know for sure that they are working faster than it was a few years ago. When they will find customers, because it is more understandable with murderers, I cannot say. All forces are involved in these cases, and we are doing everything possible,” he said.
Actually, there were plenty of witnesses, and even some of the participants subsequently came forth to admit publicly that they had participated in the coup, but the ‘news’-media in U.S.&-and-allied countries weren’t interested (even if the public there might have been, if only they had known about it).
On 24 February 2020, Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine so that the coup-installed regime in Ukraine and its U.S.-NATO-EU sponsors won’t be able to install U.S. nuclear missiles within 5-minute flying-distance from Moscow on Ukraine’s border with Russia.
This is the result of the ideology that now controls The West, called “neoliberalism” in domestic or intranational policymaking, and “neoconservatism” in international policymaking; and it is that every dollar is equal, and that every person isn’t only different from every other person but is unequal, that all rights should therefore depend upon how rich a person is — investors therefore should control the government: they have a right to use their wealth to hire whomever they must in order to deceive the voters, so that wealth will control the government, and the public won’t. A microcosmic documentary about this U.S.-epitomized-and-championed ideology, in action, showing how it actually works, is the film “DOWNFALL: The Case Against Boeing”. It’s about the most deadly passenger plane that was ever designed and built by any company anywhere, Boeing’s model 737 Max. It’s about the U.S. Government being controlled by the nation’s super-rich, who are overwhelmingly psychopaths; and, since they control the Government, the most psychopathic individuals keep getting richer and richer (‘better and better’) and never get life in prison or the death penalty, no matter how much they ought to. It’s about the worst people controlling the Government, while the elected Government officials are s‘elected’ by the super-rich and merely pretending to care about the public that they are supposed to be (and claim to be) representing (but know they actually don’t).
Ukraine’s Government is merely a client-state of our own. It is a subsidiary of America Incorporated. It’s like Boeing. It’s the way that Boeing is, and the way that its Government has been set up for Boeing (and all successful corporations) to be. But in international affairs, which is the realm of neoconservatism, power comes as much from weapons as it comes from deceiving voters. It’s about the system that empowers the most-evil individuals and that traps the public and encourages the public to fight against each other instead of against the few individuals (the successful investors) who profit from this system: the system that is called neoliberalism-neoconservatism, and that profits the predators, at the expense of the public. Mussolini called it “fascism,” and also called it “corporationism”, and he got that ideology from his teacher Vilfredo Pareto, who was its inventor. In it, the order both of rights and of power is: (1) investors; (2) executives; (3) consumers; (4) employees. (Anyone who isn’t in any of those 4 categories is considered to be worthless. The dollar rules; they don’t count, at all.)
The documentary’s creator remained, at the end, a confused, non-comprehending liberal, only slightly less of a neoliberal-neoconservative than she was before it. But at least she seems sincere. She is simply deceived by the liberal ‘news’-media that she is subjected to — still a believing Democrat, obviously against Republicans: her “us” (CNN, NYT, etc.) against “them” (FNC, WSJ, etc.). But the viewers of her documentary might see in her documentary what she does not — something which goes beyond her narrow sphere of concern.
She is Rory Kennedy — a daughter of RFK, sister of RFK Jr., and niece of JFK.
Anyway: Ukraine, at least ever since February 2014, is being run in accord with the same ideology that guides Boeing Corporation. The U.S. Government calls this “the rules-based international order,” and those “rules” come from the U.S. Government, and NOT from the U.N. and its international laws. It’s the world in which the most-successful gangsters rule, not merely nationally, but internationally. That’s called “hegemony,” and the rulers of America like it just fine, because it’s theirs — they own it, and they want to keep it. They certainly don’t want it to end.
Ukraine: Prospects for end to war look bleak
The war in Ukraine shows no signs of ending, more than five months after the Russian invasion, and fighting is intensifying, the UN Security Council heard on Friday.
Ambassadors were briefed by UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo, who pointed to the recent agreement on the safe resumption of grain exports via the Black Sea as a bright light in the conflict, though acknowledging the dim prospects for peace.
“The grain agreement is a sign that dialogue between the parties is possible in the search to ease human suffering,” said Ms. DiCarlo, officially the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.
She added that the UN is making every effort to support implementation of the deal, which was signed last week in Türkiye.
Diplomatic efforts needed
The war’s impact globally is “glaringly clear”, said Ms. DiCarlo, noting that the consequences will only become more pronounced the longer fighting lasts, particularly with the onset of winter.
“Despite the encouraging developments on grain and fertilizers, we remain deeply concerned about the lack of prospects for a shift towards a meaningful resumption of diplomatic efforts to end the war,” she told the Council.
“Escalatory rhetoric from any side, including about expanding the conflict geographically or denying Ukraine’s statehood, is not consistent with the constructive spirit demonstrated in Istanbul.”
Attacks continue unabated
Ms. DiCarlo said that since her last briefing in late June, deadly attacks by Russian forces have continued unabated, reducing many Ukrainian cities and towns to rubble.
The number of civilians killed, wounded, or maimed has also increased. As of Wednesday, there were 12,272 civilian casualties, including 5,237 deaths, according to the UN human rights office, OHCHR.
“This represents at least 1,641 new civilian casualties since my last briefing: 506 killed and 1,135 injured. These are figures based on verified incidents; the actual numbers are considerably higher,” she said.
Ms. DiCarlo also warned of reported efforts to alter administrative structures on the ground, including attempts to introduce local governing bodies in Russian-controlled areas, which raise serious concerns about the political implications of the war.
“As the conflict enters a more protracted phase, attention is increasingly turning to its longer-term humanitarian, recovery, reconstruction, and socio-economic impact. As summer wanes, the need for winterization planning is also becoming pressing,” she said.
“Regrettably, political dialogue has virtually ground to a halt, leaving people without the hope that peace will come anytime soon.”
UN agencies also continue to document damage and destruction to civilian infrastructure such as homes, schools and healthcare facilities.
The impact on the health sector is “particularly alarming”, she said, as there have been 414 attacks so far, resulting in 85 deaths and 100 injuries.
“This includes 350 attacks on facilities in areas of conflict, where on average around 316,000 patients were treated per month,” she said.
Assistance to millions
Since the start of the war, the UN and humanitarian partners have provided aid to some 11 million people, including in the form of food and livelihood assistance, protection services, mine clearance, and in accessing safe water and sanitation.
Nearly six million Ukrainian refugees have found shelter across Europe. Since the war began on 24 February, border crossings from Ukraine have totalled more than 9.5 million, while crossings to Ukraine numbered 3.8 million.
“We are concerned that winter will make it harder for the displaced or the returnee community to have access to shelter and health care,” said Ms. DiCarlo.
Impacts on women
She also drew attention to the war’s specific impact on women and girls, particularly in areas such as food security and health.
Women’s access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health, is rapidly deteriorating, as is access to newborn and child healthcare. They are also now largely responsible for home-schooling, as access to education is severely hindered due to the constant threat of bombing.
“Further, women in Ukraine face significantly increased safety and protection risks,” she added.
“Incidents of gender-based violence, including allegations of sexual violence in conflict have increased, but services for survivors are not provided in full. It is also likely that many victims and survivors are currently unable to report their cases.”
Ms. DiCarlo stressed that it is especially for these reasons why women must be meaningful participants in discussions and initiatives to shape the future of the country, including peace negotiations, recovery efforts, peacebuilding and accountability efforts.
Hope for grain shipments
The top UN humanitarian official in Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, was in the port city of Odessa on Friday, together with the country’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and ambassadors from G7 countries, according to her official Twitter account.
This week saw the start of an operation under the grain exports deal, known as the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC), which will monitor ships transporting grain, as well as related foodstuffs and fertilizers, from Odessa and two other ports along the Black Sea.
The JCC brings together representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Türkiye, and the UN.
Ms. Lubrani wrote that she was “very hopeful for the movements of ships to take place soon, taking much needed grain and related foodstuffs from Ukraine to countries that need them the most”.
She added that it was an honour to talk to President Zelenskyy and to reaffirm the UN’s ongoing support to Ukraine.
The visit took place on Ms. Lubrani’s final day as the UN’s Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine. Her successor, Denise Brown, will assume the post starting on Saturday.
Humanitarians call for greater access
The launch of the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) is an example of how the international community can affect change even amid the war in Ukraine, a UN humanitarian official said in the capital, Kyiv, on Friday.
Saviano Abreu of the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, was among representatives from six UN agencies who briefed journalists on their ongoing operations to assist millions both within and outside Ukraine whose lives have been uprooted by the conflict.
“Although the world’s attention seems to be moving elsewhere, the situation in the country is far from any change,” he said.
While humanitarians have provided support to 11 million people so far, he said “we do know that it is not enough”.
Mr. Abreu reported that since the start of the Russian invasion, aid workers have not been able to send relief items to areas beyond the government’s control.
He underscored the obligation to allow free and safe humanitarian passage to all people in need.
“We saw this week that when there is a will, things can change”, said Mr. Abreu, referring to the JCC launch.
“Now we have to go one step further and make sure that no one is left behind also here in Ukraine. We need the parties to gently agree on humanitarian access to all regions of Ukraine, so we can save lives and alleviate the suffering of people who have endured these five months of war.”
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