Saturday, August 9, 2008
See Global Voices special coverage page on the South Ossetia crisis.)
In a brief report sent around noon on Aug. 8 from a hotel basement in Tskhinvali, the beleaguered capital of South Ossetia, Russian journalist Mikhail Romanov wrote this about the nature of the ongoing conflict between Georgia and Russia:
[...] The city is under heavy howitzer and mortar fire. An endless cannonade. I've seen many wounded people.
Peacekeepers are commenting succinctly: "This is war."
I was planning to leave tomorrow, a car was supposed to pick me up at 5 in the morning. Now it's not clear whether it'll pick me up. In general, nothing is clear.
Earlier that day, around 4 AM local time, LJ user alan_tskhurbaev, a blogger from Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia-Alania, had a phone conversation with a friend from Tskhinvali (RUS):
He is sitting in the basement, with a machine gun, and is so angry, he's almost crying. He says that machine guns are of no use to anyone here. Says that the city has been washed so forcefully with the [multiple rocket launcher system "Grad"] fire that the level of destruction is going to be very serious. He cannot talk about casualties yet, as there is even less information there than here. He says it has grown quieter now. He can't believe this is really happening. He's asking, Where is Russia?
U.S.-based LJ user saugin, who, in a comment to an earlier post by LJ user alan_tskhurbaev, mentioned (RUS) that his wife and younger son were also hiding in a basement in Tskhinvali, commented on Russia's involvement in the conflict and initiated the following discussion (RUS):
On all forums I always used to say that Russia wasn't going to help us. Back home, they almost tore me into pieces for this. So where is this much-praised Russia now? I'd like to ask [Eduard Kokoity, president of South Ossetia] - where are your masters who you had trusted so much?
[We've been betrayed.]
vinous_granat [posted at 4:26 PM, after the Russian troops entered South Ossetia]:
Do you still think this way?
[They did desert us.] Russian tanks spent 15 hours riding through the tunnel. During this time, nothing was left of Tskhinvali.
LJ user m-yu-sokolov, a well-known Russian columnist,
reacted with joy and relief (RUS) on hearing of Russia's decision to deploy troops to South Ossetia. Based outside the volatile region, however, he seemed more concerned with his country's image rather than the human suffering and destruction caused by the fighting:
You've heard my prayers, God. Our tanks are moving towards Tskhinval. Russia has chosen against shameful dishonor.
Eduard Limonov, leader of the seemingly oppositional National Bolshevik Party, issued a rather un-oppositional statement, in which he called the Russian leadership to become even more involved in the conflict in South Ossetia - and in Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia. LJ user skovorodnikov reposted Limonov's statement in the namarsh_ru LJ community:
A new war has broken out in the Caucasus region. Last night, Georgian forces intruded on the territory of South Ossetia, which has been an independent state for 15 years already. Severe fighting is taking place there now.
The leadership of the Russian Federation has already made a tragic mistake. Russia should have peacefully deployed its troops to South Ossetia long before the battles allowed the Georgians in. Now there is only one obvious way for Russia to respond. Namely, as a preventive measure, Russian troops should immediately enter Abkhazia. Simultaneously, North Ossetian and Cossack volunteers should be allowed to form armed groups and fight against the Georgian troops in South Ossetia.
I insist on recommending the Russian leadership to follow my advice. This is the only way for Russia to save face and keep the status of a great country.
Below is a snippet of a subsequent discussion (RUS) of Limonov's stance, which took place between two bloggers, one of whom appears to be a supporter of the National Bolshevik Party:
Well, pro-Kremlin [National Bolsheviks] - it's beyond me.
What is pro-Kremlin about it?
A total agreement on this issue! While it's worth considering that a victorious war will only strengthen the current regime!
Damn it, and what if Putin suddenly gives us a real democracy and flourishing [...]? Are you going to be against it as well? In general, this TOTAL rejection of any of the regime's steps is driving me mad sometimes. The regime cannot ALWAYS be wrong. Sometimes they act correctly, but even in this case the regime has acted too slowly and clumsily. [...]
The Russian people will get nothing out of it but the bodies of the Russian soldiers who died in a war for the Georgian territory. [...]
While the boundary separating the Russian opposition from their pro-Kremlin counterparts is somewhat blurry now, Russian hippie bloggers consider holding an anti-war demonstration. LJ user svetlyj_vrn wrote this (RUS) in the ru_hippy LJ community:
[...] We've found ourselves in a similar situation as our brethren had in America in the 60s. The governments of Georgia, Ossetia, Russia and America, with support from the UN, are pushing the world towards yet another war. The Vietnam War was stopped thanks to the efforts of the hippies. What about us? Are we going to stand on the sidelines? Maybe we should remind the world what a pacifists' demonstration is like? [...]
It remains to be seen, however, whether anything will come out of this initiative.
Since the escalation of the conflict in South Ossetia has coincided with the opening of the Olympics in China, a number of bloggers commented on that as well.
LJ user shavu posted this sarcastic item (RUS), referring to the recent Russian-Chinese agreement that ended a decades-long territorial dispute between the two states:
By the way, yes - everything had been planned in advance. They had even paid China with a little island for the inconvenience [to be] caused on the opening day of the Olympics.
LJ user scrolllock wrote (RUS):
Currently on TV: Georgian Olympic team is walking down the stadium in Beijing, the athletes are waving flags, forced smiles on their faces. What does it feel like, to be walking and smiling [...], while there's a war going on back home? [...]
LJ user vaxo, a Ukrainian-Georgian journalist Vakhtang Kipiani, compared the pre-war situation in South Ossetia to what's taking place in Crimea now and explained (RUS, UKR) why Ukrainian officials "should better be watching broadcasts from Tskhinvali rather than the opening of the Olympic Games":
"Leonid Grach, a Communist and people's deputy of Ukraine from Crimea, said that if Ukraine joined NATO, Crimea would secede from [Ukraine]. 'This is an alternative for the Crimean people, for which they are ready by now. Crimeans will never agree to live in a country that's been dragged into NATO,' said Grach."
If you take into account that our [government] doesn't know how many citizens of Ukraine who live in [Crimea] hold Russian passports + [the problem of 2017] ([Russian Black Sea Fleet] - "no one is leaving anywhere!") = today's events in Georgia shouldn't be treated as something that has nothing to do with [Ukraine]. [...]
Kipiani didn't specify which TV channels the Ukrainian authorities should be tuning in to for the news from South Ossetia, but, judging from another post of his (UKR), he did not mean Russia's state-owned Channel 1:
After reporting the deaths of 1,400 people ("citizens of Russia," so to say!) - they are airing laughter and jokes [by popular Russian entertainers].
[...] Either the loss of over a thousand people is a trifle for the Kremlin and [Channel 1 management], or they think everyone else around them are fools.