Reactions to the conflict

Reactions to the conflict

International reactions

See also: Protests regarding 2008 South Ossetia war

Russia faced strong criticism from the US, the United Kingdom, Poland, Sweden and the Baltic states; US Vice President Dick Cheney stated « Russian aggression must not go unanswered, and that its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States, as well as the broader international community. »[189][190]

The Swedish government stated on August 11, 2008 « that Russia’s conduct in Georgia is unacceptable and contravenes the international regulatory framework. » [191] Carl Bildt , foreign minister of Sweden and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, was quoted, Russia’s claims it was defending Russian citizens in Southossetia « recalled Hitler’s justifications of Nazi invasions ».[192]

Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini stated « We cannot create an anti-Russia coalition in Europe, and on this point we are close to Putin’s position ».[193] A German diplomat in Moscow has stated in an internal document of August 11, 2008 that « Russian response to Georgia was appropriate ».[194]

Judicial reaction

On 12 August 2008 Georgia instituted proceedings in the International Court of Justice against Russia for violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The case (Georgia v. Russian Federation) was accepted by the court on 15 August. The first public hearings are planned on 8 September 2008 [195].

Financial market reaction

The effect of the war on the Russian financial markets was first noticed on the stock market benchmark index RTS which fell 6% by August 8, 2008 at 12:45 GMT in its lowest level (1,732.26) since May 2007, including blue chips such as Lukoil Holdings shares, and Russian analysts expect the fall to continue for some time but then to rise upwards again, recovering losses.[196] The Russian ruble also fell by 1% relative to a basket of currencies.[197]

The Georgian financial markets also suffered negative consequences as Fitch Ratings lowered Georgia’s debt ratings from BB- to B+, commenting that there are increased risks to Georgian sovereign creditworthiness, while Standard and Poor’s also lowered Georgian credit ratings.[198]

Map of Baku-Supsa and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipelines through Georgia

Map of Baku-Supsa and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipelines through Georgia

While Georgia has no significant oil or gas reserves on its own, it is an important transit route that supplies the West, and journalists expressed fear that the war may damage the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, 30% of which is owned by BP.[199] The BTC pipeline was shut down before the conflict because of the blast in Turkey on August 6, 2008, that was threatened and then claimed by the PPK[200]‘ and the war created further problems for the operating company Botas International Ltd.[201] Georgia claims Russia is targeting the pipeline.[202] On August 8, 2008, Russian air forces devastated the port of Poti, which the Georgian government calls « a key port for the transportation of energy sources, » close to the Baku-Supsa pipeline and the Supsa oil terminal.[203] On August 12, 2008, BP, an operator of the main pipelines through Georgia, closed the BTC pipeline, the Baku-Supsa Pipeline and the South Caucasus Pipeline for the safety reasons.[204] Gas supplies through the South Caucasus Pipeline were resumed on August 14, 2008.[205]

The price of oil was not negatively affected by these events, on August 8, 2008 light sweet crude for September delivery settled down $4.82 to $115.20 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.[206]

Media coverage

Territories controlled by the breakaway republics of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh at the end of August 2008

Territories controlled by the breakaway republics of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh at the end of August 2008

An extensive information war was conducted during the military conflict.

Cyberattacks and censorship

South Ossetian officials stated that two Ossetian news media sites were attacked. Dmitry Medoyev, the South Ossetian secessionist envoy in Moscow, claimed that Georgia was trying to cover up reports of deaths.[207]

The National Bank of Georgia website was defaced and replaced with a gallery of 20th century dictators, with Saakashvili added. Georgian news portals were under Internet denial-of-service attacks and reportedly the site of the Georgian Ministry of Defense was attacked as well. The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs site was defaced and replaced with a collage of Saakashvili and Adolf Hitler photos.[208] According to the the The New York Times, Georgian websites crashed frequently on August 8.[209]

Estonian media claimed that the attacks are similar in nature to the 2007 cyberattacks on Estonia and were carried out with the same techniques.[210] Estonian authorities have pledged to provide Georgia assistance in cyber-warfare. Estonia has sent to Georgia two specialists in information security from the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Estonia, and Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website is currently hosted on Estonian server.[211] The Office of the President of Poland has provided the website for dissemination of information and helped to get access to the Internet for Georgia’s government after breakdowns of local servers caused by cyberattacks.[212]

Georgia had stopped broadcasting Russian television channels across the country.[213] Web sites hosted on domains with addresses ending in .ru “were briefly blocked” from Georgia.[214] Some pro-Russian sites in other zones were also reported to be blocked.[215] Both actions were taken due to Georgia’s belief that Russia was conducting an information war.

RIA Novosti news agency’s website was disabled for several hours on August 10 by a series of computer cracker attacks. « The DNS-servers and the site itself have been coming under severe attack, » said Maxim Kuznetsov, head of the RIA Novosti IT department.[216] On August 11, Russia Today TV stated: « In the course of the last 24 hours RT’s website (www.russiatoday.com) has endured numerous DDoS attacks, which have made it unavailable for some time. Channel’s security specialists say the initial attack was carried out from an IP-address registered in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.[217]

The Russian internet news source, Gazeta.ru, reported that the Fox News channel cut off an American-Ossetian girl, Amanda Kokoeva, after she stated that she was attacked by Georgian Forces and saved by the Russian Troops,[218] although this is not seen in the Fox News video. The New York Times published an article about the interview discrediting the claims of biased treatment. [219] Fox News was also accused of censorship by TV Channel Russia Today which showed its own interview with Amanda and earlier by several internet blogs and forums.[220] The video also allegedly experienced multiple problems with the counters available on YouTube.[220][218] The video rating and view count are not being updated and new comments are being deleted, according to some sources.[220] Gazeta.ru stated, « … the counter was at 347,000. At midday the view count on YouTube, fell without any sort of explanation to 45,747. »[218] However the counter was seen being reset, and stopping at around 4000. As of August 16 the counter, seems to be up and running again. The reasons for the counter freezes remain unclear.

Combatants

See also: Military of Georgia and Military of Russia

Military equipment

Georgian, Russian and South Ossetian forces are equipped with predominantly Soviet-made weapons, in particular, Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft,[221] T-55 and T-72 tanks, and AK-74 rifles; however, Georgia has recently also been acquiring some western-made weaponry, including the UH-1 Iroquois helicopters and M4 Carbine rifles from the United States, 152mm SpGH DANA self-propelled guns and RM-70 Multiple rocket launchers from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Turkish Otokar Cobra armored vehicles, and German Heckler & Koch G36 and Israeli IMI Tavor TAR-21 rifles. Ukraine has supplied Georgia with weapons, reportedly including AA missiles, Armored Personnel Carriers and small arms.[222]

Georgian order of battle

As of 8 August 2008, Georgia had a total armed Forces Personnel of 26,900, 82 T-72 Main Battle Tanks, 139 Armoured Personnel Carriers (BMP and BTR variants), 7 Combat aircraft (Su-25 ground attack) and 95 Heavy artillery pieces (including Grad BM-21 122mm multiple rocket launchers), according to Jane’s Sentinel Country Risk Assessments.[223]

  • 1st Brigade – Re-deployed from Iraq to Georgia. It was deployed to defend the Capital from Russian troops.[224]
  • 2nd Brigade – Suffered heavy losses in the Battle of the Kodori Valley.[224]
  • 3rd Brigade – Supported 4th Brigade’s advances on South Ossetia. Survived the battle relatively intact.[224]
  • 4th Brigade – Most powerful of Georgia’s Brigades. Spearhead the attack onto South Ossetia. Suffered heavy looses in men and equipment.[224]
  • 5th Brigade – Kept in reserve, deployed in defensive position after Russian incursions into Gori[224]

In the combat for Tskhinvali, Georgia reportedly committed several infantry battalions supported by T-72 tanks and artillery.[225] The Georgian Air Force has also been engaged in the conflict.[226] Following the Russian response, Georgia recalled all 2,000 of its troops that had been stationed in Iraq. The troops and their equipment were transported by the United States Air Force using C-17 Globemaster aircraft.[227] The Americans were training Georgia’s forces to use the U.S. military’s M-4 rifles. However, when fighting broke out the Georgians went back to the Soviet AK-47, the only weapon they trusted. They appeared incapable of firing single shots, letting off bursts of automatic fire, which is wildly inaccurate and wastes ammunition. The U.S. military training program has been interrupted and critically damaged by the war. The Georgian army has been dealt a harsh blow. While official statistics claim 180 fatalities, soldiers and civilians, the number of dead or missing soldiers is probably higher.[224] According to an « Intelligence Briefing » published at an independent news website, the 1st and 2nd Brigade, the Independent Tank Battalion with headquarters at Gori and most of Georgia’s front line artillery units are no longer combat capable.[228]

Russian order of battle

South Ossetian Sector

Abkhazian Sector

Air support

  • Fighter, attack, bomber and reconnaissance aircrafts of 4th Air Army[1] (acting over South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Georgia)
  • Unnamed transport aviation units used for air-lift of units of 76th and 98th Airborne Divisions, Spetsnaz of 45th Detached Reconnaissance Regiment to South Ossetia and unnamed units of VDV to Abkhazia

Other

  • Russian news services, notably RTR Planeta,[235] have reported wide-scoped assembly of Ossetian Narodnoe Opolcheniye being joined by volunteers from the Vladikavkaz region and other parts of Russia. The groups being formed at « various locations » are reported to range from « tens » to « hundreds. » The members of these groups as shown on video reports are identified by white armbands, but appear to be otherwise clothed and equipped predominantly in Russian Army issue camouflage clothing and firearms. One such group in the Northern Ossetia has been formed on the Staff of North Ossetia okrug Cossack Voisko (Russian: штаб североосетинского округа казачьего войска).[236]

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