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Tagliavini Commission results delayed

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, July 7
In both Georgia and Russia political circles are looking forward to receiving the report of the EU fact finding commission concerning the war in August 2008. Its conclusion should identify which side should be blamed for starting the war. For both Georgia and Russia this question requires no answer: each side blames the other for unleashing atrocities. However for precisely this reason the EU fact finding commission’s conclusions will be very important as the report is supposed to give an unbiased opinion.

Initially the conclusions should have been ready by the end of July, but Chair of the commission Heidi Tagliavini has asked the EU to prolong the commission’s work for two more months. Presumably therefore the results will be ready by the end of September if there are no more delays.

Georgia has already carried out its own investigation of the war, through a Parliamentary Commission led by the opposition member Paata Davitaia. This concluded that it was Russia which started the war. Moscow also carried out an investigation through a commission created by the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office. Of course the Russian version is that Georgia was an aggressor which sought to commit the genocide of the Ossetian people, and 162 peaceful civilians died and 255 were wounded as a result. The Russian commission has admitted that it doesn’t possess any document proving that President Saakashvili of Georgia ordered the genocide of the Ossetian people but it is continuing to search for this document.

The Russian allegations are of course absurd, as many eye-witnesses recount that the Ossetian-occupied territories were intensively bombarded by Russian tanks and artillery. However the current Russian administration is continually disseminating and speculating on this ‘information’ because this is the version which the Putin-Medvedev tandem can use to justify the Russian aggression and the occupying Georgian regions whose puppet regimes it then recognised as ‘independent states’. If the EU does not confirm the Russian variant this will be another big attack on Russia’s already spoiled reputation. Russia is now seen all over the world as an aggressive country with imperialistic ambitions. That is why it is doing its utmost to use all levers to influence public opinion, political circles, the leaders of different Western countries and of course the Tagliavini Commission itself, hoping it will thus draw a conclusion which exonerates Russia.

Russia wants to prove that the war was started by Georgian troops entering the Tskhinvali region to restore constitutional order there, and not when Russia introduced extra troops and ammunition in a disguised form, disseminated Russian passports to Georgian citizens, continually reinforced the separatist military units and encouraged them to continually shoot at and bombard the Georgian villages in the region. According to Russia’s logic it was the student Gavrilo Princip who started the First World War. At the beginning of July Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin met Heidi Tagliavini and expressed his hope that the independent international commission will be as objective as possible. Tagliavini responded that it is the commission’s desire that its final conclusion is indeed as objective as possible and is based on facts and expert analysis. Russia’s definition of objectivity however is that the commission’s conclusion should endorse the Russian version of the conflict.

Russia’s representative at NATO Dmitri Rogozin once answered a question from The Messenger by saying that Russia is always right. A mentally sane entity would never say or believe such a thing, but Russia knows it has different subversive levers it can use to “prove” its objectivity. First among these is its energy supplies to Europe, as European leaders know very well. It is unlikely that Westerners will be prepared to tolerate discomfort because of Georgia, suggests Georgian newspaper Akhali Taoba.

Some time ago the Georgian media generally suggested that the Tagliavini Commission’s conclusion would be balanced, apportioning blame to both sides. It is still rather early to make guesses, but the feeling now in Georgian society is one of frustration. People realise that Russia’s grudge against Tbilisi is mainly based on its Western orientation and Georgia’s very important role as a transit country for alternative energy routes to Europe which bypass Russia. These things are not going to go away, and neither is Europe’s greater desire to have a quiet life without undue problems to the east.

Will Georgia be sacrificed for Europe’s sake? Of course Georgia wants to integrate with Europe because it wants security guarantees at the very least. Russia has twice assaulted Georgia for going against it, once at the beginning of the 90s and again last year. Georgian analyst Zaza Piralishvili comments that “in both cases we were hit and in both cases the side which should have backed us smiled, averted its gaze and continued doing business with Russia.” The Tagliavini Commission will not dictate EU policy, but its every word and implication will certainly be used by those who do so.