>– Russia Deploys Entire Black Sea Fleet for Maneuvers in Third Week of April
– Four Large Amphibious Landing Craft Left Sevastopol in Second Week of April, Two Used to Insert Russian Marines into Abkhazia during August 2008 Invasion
– CSTO General Secretary, Career Chekist Bordyuzha Brands Cooperative Lancer/Longbow Exercise “Provocation,” Russia’s NATO Envoy Rogozin Denounces War Game as “Insanity”
– Russian FSB/KGB Arrests Georgian “Spy” Plotting against Sochi Olympics, Moscow-Backed Separatists Accuse OSCE Observers of Provocations
It [South Ossetia] will be Russia. And Georgia used to be Russian, too.
— Russian Ground Forces Lieutenant “Sergei,” statement made to AP news agency at South Ossetia-Georgia (proper) border checkpoint, April 21, 2009
Pictured above: On April 13 Russian soldiers stand at a checkpoint to the entrance of the Georgian village of Akhmaji, on the boundary with Russian-controlled South Ossetia. Georgian police maintain their own checkpoint about 100 yards away.
Established in 2001, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) kicked off its first joint military exercise in 2005, followed by a second in 2007. Both war games were held in Russian and Chinese territory. The SCO actually represents the culmination of many decades of collusion between Moscow and Beijing, typified by the deceptive “Sino-Soviet split” that led to several (fabricated) border skirmishes in 1969. Although a third “Peace Mission” drill is slated for the summer of 2009, the SCO actually carried out its third war game, Norak-Antiterror 2009, on April 17 and 18 at the Fakhrobod training ground in Tajikistan’s Khatlon province, about 50 kilometers south of the national capital Dushanbe. Tajikistan, of course, was until 1991 known as the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic.
According to Faridoun Mahmadaliyev, spokesentity for the Tajik Ministry of Defense, Norak-Antiterror 2009 was conducted as part of a common plan formulated at the SCO anti-terror center. “The exercise that was conducted in two stages involved operational groups and special units of the armed forces of Tajikistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia,” Mahmadaliyev intoned, adding:
The purpose of the exercise was to rehearse coordination and interaction in antiterrorist missions. The exercise that involved military personnel along with armored vehicles, artillery and aircraft closed on April 18 featuring life-fire missions with combat helicopters.
Representatives of defense and civilian institutions structures from the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] and other countries observed the exercise.
We have documented many times before that the neo-Soviet leadership prepares for war against NATO and its allies and positions military assets for specific operations under the guise of “anti-terror” drills. This was the case with Caucasus Frontier 2008, which the Soviets began three weeks prior to their Georgian incursion. At the same time US and Georgian forces were holding the Immediate Response 2008 drill near Tbilisi. A similar situation is once again forming in the Caucasus region as the SCO completes Norak-Antiterror 2009 only weeks before NATO carries out the Cooperative Lancer/Longbow 2009 military exercise, like Immediate Response to be held on Georgian soil, from May 6 to June 1. The “terrorists” in Norak-Antiterror 2009 were apparently armed for “Soviet bear,” requiring suppression by armored vehicles, artillery, and combat aircraft.
Sino-Soviet collaboration in the military sphere is also seen in the presence of the missile cruiser Varyag, the flagship of Russia’s Pacific Fleet, in a parade of 21 foreign warships that will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Chinese Navy launched the maritime ceremony on Monday, off the coast of the eastern city of Qingdao, in Shandong province. The fleet review will feature Chinese nuclear-powered submarines. “It is not a secret that China has nuclear submarines, which are key to safeguarding our country’s national security,” Xinhua quoted PLA Navy Vice Admiral Ding Yiping as saying.
Elsewhere in the “post”-Soviet space the Soviets are positioning their military assets closer to the “renegade” Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Following last August’s re-invasion and re-occupation of Georgia’s two separatist regions, the Russians established permanent military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, boosting their troop presence in each to 7,000. Although Moscow denies any designs of annexing the two territories, the latest Russian military activity near Akhmaji, a checkpoint between South Ossetia and Georgia proper, suggests otherwise:
At a military checkpoint between Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia, the word “Russia” is hand-painted in pink on a concrete security barrier. “It will be Russia,” said a Russian army lieutenant as the Ossetian soldiers under his command nodded. “And Georgia used to be Russian, too,” said the young freckle-faced lieutenant, who would give only his first name, Sergei. Three armored personnel carriers and a tank were dug in around the checkpoint.
Russia has troops just 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Georgian capital, in violation of the European Union-brokered cease-fire that ended last year’s brief war. And in recent weeks, it has put even more soldiers and armored vehicles within striking distance of the city ahead of street protests against Georgia’s president.
The AP article linked above elaborates on the augmentation and movement of Russian troops in Georgia’s breakaway regions, as well as a “freshly dug anti-tank trench” along the highway to Tbilisi:
Russia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the Kremlin has sent reinforcements to the boundary lines. It was responding to fears the Georgian government would provoke clashes to distract from the opposition protests, ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said.
Georgia’s Interior Ministry said Russia has 15,000 soldiers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which would be far more than in past months. Since the beginning of April, Russia has moved 130 armored vehicles toward the boundary line from elsewhere in South Ossetia and 70 more have entered South Ossetia from Russia, ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry refused to comment on the composition of its forces, and Georgia’s claims could not be independently verified. European monitors who patrol the boundary lines are not allowed into South Ossetia or Abkhazia, and journalists also are stopped at Russian checkpoints.
Peter Semneby, the EU special representative for the South Caucasus, said the Russian military presence is clearly “significantly larger” than it was.
From a Georgian police checkpoint just 100 yards (meters) from a Russian roadblock controlling access to the village of Akhmaji, a half dozen Russian tanks and other armored vehicles can be seen in the valley.
Local police chief Timur Burduli said the vehicles appeared during the first week of April and are the Russian forces closest to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. “A tank needs only 40 minutes,” he said.
Along the highway to Tbilisi, a freshly dug anti-tank trench stretches across a long field. Steve Bird, spokesman for the EU monitors, said the Georgians have been building such defenses in recent weeks.
In addition to stridently objecting to NATO’s Cooperative Lancer/Longbow 2009, the Kremlin is not pleased that several oil and gas pipelines supplying the West traverse Georgia, from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia to Turkey and beyond. These energy conduits, which the Russian Air Force attempted to bomb during the Caucasian War, are beyond Moscow’s overt control. “Russia wants to be the monopoly supplier,” observes Georgian political analyst Shalva Pichkhadze at the link above.
We have previously blogged about the protests demanding the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili, whom we suspect is a KGB agent playing along with Moscow’s long-range deception plan. One Georgian media source contends that Saakashvili’s uncle, Temur Alasania, is allegedly in the employ of the Russian internal security apparatus.
In a related story, Novosti reports that the first six Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopters have been delivered to the Russian Ground Forces’ North Caucasus Military District, a military source revealed on Tuesday. This military district is adjacent to the “former” Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic and was the site of the Caucasus Frontier 2008 drill, mentioned above, just prior to the re-invasion of Georgia. The Mi-28N, manufactured by the Rostvertol plant in southern Russia, is designed to carry out hunter-killer missions against main battle tanks, helicopters, ground forces, and armor in all weather conditions. The Russian Defense Ministry plans to procure between 45 and 67 Mi-28Ns over the next few years, fully replacing the 1970s-era Mi-24 Hind combat/troop transport helicopter by 2015.
Not only is the Russian army creeping closer to Tbilisi, but also the Kremlin’s navy appears to be preparing for some sort of action against Georgia’s only maritime coast on the Black Sea. On April 16 Information Dissemination blog reported that the Russian Navy has deployed all 22 vessels in its Black Sea Fleet for drills: “Earlier this week, as per the agreement between Russia and the Ukraine, Russian officials notified the Ukraine that 22 of its Black Sea Fleet vessels will leave Sevastopol for military maneuvers. Those ships were expected to depart earlier this week, but it was noteworthy when all of the amphibious ships deployed first rather than all of the ships at once.” On the same day the Eurasia Daily Monitor reported:
It is important that the Russian military acknowledges its mobilization and forward deployment of troops and ships. At present, it is impossible to know precisely how many additional army units have been moved within striking distance of Georgian territory.
However, the composition of the naval force that disembarked from Sevastopol is not secret, since the Ukrainian authorities must be informed. It seems to be larger than the force that was deployed against Georgia last August. Four large amphibious landing craft left Sevastopol last week, while in August 2008 only two were reportedly deployed to insert a regiment of marines into Abkhazia in the small port of Ochamchira, close to the border with Georgia (Vlast, August 18). The marines were later deployed in the invasion of Western Georgia.
On April 17 President Dmitry Medvedev, KGB-communist dictator Vladimir Putin’s lapdog, warned that “Russia will be closely watching the drills and will if necessary, make appropriate decisions.” He added: “Such decisions are disappointing and do nothing to help restore full-level contacts between the Russian Federation and NATO.”
The anti-NATO comments emanating from the Kremlin were echoed by Russia’s NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin on April 18: “On Monday I addressed NATO [incoming] Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen with a letter asking [him] to cancel the drills in Georgia, due to start in early May. I believe this is absurdity and insanity. It is provocational to rattle the saber near our borders until Russia-NATO military contacts are restored and until trust is restored between our sides.” On April 20 Rogozin announced that in protest Russia will withdraw from a scheduled meeting with senior NATO military officials. Formal high-level contacts between Russia and NATO only resumed recently after being frozen by NATO in the wake of last summer’s Caucasian War.
A few days later, while visiting Kyrgyzstan, CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha, a career Chekist, branded NATO maneuvers in Georgia as a provocation: “I absolutely agree that carrying out of the exercises in the territory of Georgia especially after last year’s conflict is nothing else but demonstration of support of those aggressive actions undertaken during Michael Saakashvili’s regime concerning the citizens of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”
Sergei Bagapsh, de facto “president” of Abkhazia, retorted that his separatist regime will hold a counter-exercise in response to Cooperative Lancer/Longbow 2009: “The planned NATO exercises in Georgia do not lead to the stabilization of the situation in the Caucasus. We observe the situation in Georgia and we will conduct our own drills in response.”
The NATO drills are putatively designed to improve interoperability between the armed forces of NATO and partner countries, within the framework of the Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue, and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative programs. The exercise will involve 1,300 troops, but will not include light or heavy weaponry. A total of 19 countries will participate in the exercises. These countries include NATO members Britain, Canada, Greece, Spain, Turkey, and the United States of America, NATO ally United Arab Emirates, as well as a number of “post”-communist countries, including Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Serbia, and Macedonia.
Kazakhstan, which belongs to the Moscow-controlled CSTO, has decided to pull out of the NATO drill. Explaining Astana’s decision, Kazakh government spokesentity Danial Akhmetov huffed: “We are too busy for this.” Communist Moldova, which received Moscow’s backing after the April 7 “Twitter Revolution,” is also scheduled to participate in Cooperative Lancer/Longbow. It remains to be seen whether Moldovan President Vladmir Voronin, a former Soviet Interior Ministry general, develops second thoughts about his country’s involvement.
Meanwhile, in what reeks of a Kremlin-contrived provocation, the intrepid defenders of the fatherland at the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB/KGB) declared on Tuesday that they have apprehended a Georgian spying on preparations for the Olympic Games in Sochi, the Black Sea resort city near Georgia, and plotting “subversive activities.” An FSB spokesentity intoned to Interfax and Novosti:
The Russian FSB uncovered and halted an agent of the Georgian security services… illegally trespassing on Russian territory with the aim of carrying out reconnaissance and subversive activities. He was directed to gather information on the socio-political situation in the region, and on the preparation for the Olympic Games. We have identified the spy as Mamuka Maisuradze. He will be banned from entering Russia as a threat to Russian security.
Maisuradze has been operating in the region since 2000. He has been arming bandits in the North Caucasus with explosives to incite anti-Russian actions.
The secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council, Eka Tkeshelashvili, denied that the man identified by the FSB/KGB was a Georgian agent. “Such a person is not a staff member of the Georgian intelligence services,” Tkeshelashvili informed AFP, adding: “I see a clear connection between this arrest and the recent capture of a Nashi activist by the Georgian authorities.” Georgian authorities allege that Russian citizen Alexander Kuznetsov, who was detained last week, had been planning an armed provocation against Georgia, but Moscow insisted that Kuznetsov’s confession was coerced.
For their part South Ossetian authorities briefly detained on Tuesday two observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Separatist officials accused the observers of illegally crossing into South Ossetian territory. “The situation is now over and they are returning to base,” Martha Freeman, spokeswoman for the OSCE mission in Tbilisi, told AFP. However, Eduard Kokoity, de facto “president” of South Ossetia, accused the observers of instigating “provocative” actions: “The OSCE observers unlawfully crossed the border of South Ossetia in the Tskhinvali district by car and were detained by South Ossetian border guards. The actions of the OSCE observers have a provocative character.” The mandate of the OSCE’s 24-member mission in Georgia expires on June 30. Moscow opposes any extension of that mandate. A European Union mission of 225 unarmed observers is also monitoring the ceasefire between Russia and Georgia.
Pictured here: Moldovan communists worship at the shrine of their messiah in Chisinau, on April 22, Vladimir Lenin’s birthday.
Moldovan State Prosecutor Remands Businessman in Custody, Accused of Bankrolling “Twitter Revolution”; Ukrainian Communists Back Voronin
In another Not-So-Former Soviet republic, Moldova, a parliamentary vote recount has confirmed the communist party’s electoral victory on April 5. According to the initial poll results, the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova attracted around half of the votes, resulting in violent anti-communist, pro-Romanian riots in the capital Chisinau. The country’s Constitutional Court made the decision to hold a recount at the request of President Vladimir Voronin, who chairs the ruling communist party. The communists hold 60 out of 101 parliamentary seats, which means they are only one seat away from being able to unilaterally elect the president. Two-term president Voronin must step down on May 7, presumably in favor of a party colleague. Moldova’s prime minister Zinaida Greceanii, a close Voronin ally, is his presumed successor.
On April 17, reports Novosti, Moldova’s Prosecutor General’s Office remanded Moldovan businessman Gabriel Stati in custody on suspicion of inciting mass riots and an attempted coup. Stati and his bodyguard will remain in custody for 30 days in Chisinau while the state prosecutor investigates the case. If found guilty, Stati could face up to 15 years for inciting mass riots in the country and an additional 25 years for the attempted coup. That Moldova’s communists would identify an oil and construction industry magnate as the source of the “Twitter Revolution” should surprise no one. Stati was living in Ukraine until Chisinau submitted an extradition request to Kiev.
For its part, the Communist Party of Ukraine sympathizes with the Voronin regime: “The presidium of the central committee of the Ukrainian Communist party notes that the government overthrow attempt in the Republic of Moldova cannot be viewed separately from the events which began with the establishment of the Saakashvili dictatorship in Georgia in 2003-2004 and the ‘orange putsch in Ukraine.'”
Incidentally, there is widespread belief in Georgia, states the Information Dissemination blog quoted above, that “Russia helped finance the [anti-Saakashvili] demonstrations that began April 9th, but it is noteworthy those demonstrations have become smaller and smaller each day.” Along that theme, Moldovan billionaire Stati’s links to the KGB-controlled Red Mafiya are worth exploring.
In an April 12 interview broadcast on Russia’s NTV channel, “President” Medvedev referred to the Moldovan unrest as “monstrous” and singled out Romanian irredentists for denunciation: “Such civil activity should be held within the legal framework and not in the way of the so-called color revolutions, which bring nothing but poverty and problems with human rights. What happened in our close neighbor, in Moldova, is unfortunately an example of how events can develop in an absolutely unconstitutional way. The footage we saw looked monstrous, when there were attempts to hang flags of another country on the main state buildings, the symbols of a state.” Along the same theme, Voronin has identified the Romanian intelligence service as the culprit behind the “Twitter Revolution.”