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The Weekly Tripwire – Issue 7

August 14 – August 27

Tskhinvali Happenings – A blogger under pressure:
A civil activist and blogger Tamar Mearakishvili, who lives in Akhalgori Municipality, is under pressure from the Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities, who apparently do not appreciate her reporting. She was temporarily detained and charged with criminal defamation, resulting in outcry from both Tbilisi officials and NGOs, as well as an Amnesty International report saying that the pressure against Mearakishvili constitutes “a blatant violation of freedom of expression.”

Tskhinvali Happenings – Bibilov says he wants into Russia: On two different occasions on August 25, the Russian-backed Tskhinvali leader Anatoly Bibilov said he would like to see the Russian-occupied region fully annexed by Moscow. Besides giving an interview in which he called the Ossetians “a divided people that must unite within the Russian Federation,” he also made a speech, declaring that “we must do everything possible to become a part of the Russian Federation at the earliest opportunity.”

…and heartily celebrates Moscow’s recognition: Bibilov recalled Russia’s decision to recognize the independence of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia at an August 26 celebratory event named “I cannot imagine myself without Russia, without its love, and mine.”

Russia’s Network – Russian officials discuss new interior agency in Abkhazia: Russian Deputy Minister of Interior Igor Zubov, accompanied by a host of his Ministry’s officials, went to Abkhazia to polish the details of the new agency in Abkhazia, where Russian law enforcement agents will be stationed on a permanent basis. The project appears to be of importance for Moscow, since Russian President Putin spoke about is more than once during his recent trip to Abkhazia.

Russia’s Network – Russian soldiers teach patriotism to teenagers: 200 Russian, South Ossetian and Abkhaz children between ages 12 and 17 were hosted by the Russian military base in Abkhazia for a two-week “military-patriotic” camp. The kids resided in a special military barrack, and were broken into groups led by the Russian army sergeants. A stated purpose of the event, organized by the Russian Defense and Foreign Ministries, was “military-sports preparation of the pre-draft young people.” 

Russia’s Network
– The Abkhaz visit Syria: As the Russian military supports Assad’s successful offensives in Syria, apparently the people in Moscow asked their friend to receive a delegation from Sokhumi. The delegation met several high-level Syrian government officials, though presently Damascus refrains from indicating that it plans to actually recognize Abkhazia.

Western Voices
– Kelly denounces the occupation: U.S. ambassador Ian Kelly went to the Occupation Museum in village Ergneti, just a few hundred meters away from the occupation line, near Tskhinvali. He thanked the people who “set up this museum in this house a 150 meters from barbed wire,” adding that he firmly believed “that occupation will not last, that barbed wire will not stand, and that Georgia will once again be whole and will be a prosperous, independent, and free country.”

EUMM expects new Head of Mission –  The Head of the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia, Lithuanian Kęstutis Jankauskas is leaving his post to become the Head of EU Delegation in Azerbaijan. It is not known at the moment who will replace him in Georgia, though Danish Erik Hoeeg will step in as the Acting Head.

The Military Aspect
– Battle readiness check in Abkhazia: Russian troops of the mechanized brigade-sized 7th Base in Abkhazia raised alarm on August 25 to verify their battle readiness. Three thousand troops and hundreds of vehicles including tanks participated in the exercise. 

The Military Aspect – Russia transfers weapons to Sukhumi: Russian Defense Ministry formalized transfer of military equipment to the Russian-backed authorities in Sokhumi on August 21.

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