21 August 2008

Russians Really Know How to Occupy a Country

Unlike weak Americans, whose idea of an occupation of a country is to rebuild schools, soccer fields, and civil infrastructure, Russians have always known how to rape, pillage, and terrorise a population. Occupations should be mindlessly brutal and cruel, and such is the Russian occupation of Georgia.
It is a military zone sealed off by Russian military checkpoints, a land broken by roaming bands of looters that operated behind the Russian Army and made eerily empty by depopulation caused by flight. The Kremlin has allowed only official tours for journalists, accompanied by government minders, of the region, which Georgia has claimed endured organized intimidation and ethnic cleansing.

The tens of thousands of refugees who staggered out to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, took with them accounts of mass looting, of arson and, on what thus far seems a smaller scale, of killing on ethnic lines....In Variani, further up the road, the scene was bleaker. The Rev. Tadeoz Kebadze, the priest at a small Georgian Orthodox church, said that after the rocket attacks had come rounds of what he called “lawless marauders.” More than 1,200 of the village’s roughly 1,500 people had fled, he said.

...Almost all the people interviewed asked that their names be withheld, out of fear of reprisal while they lived in the lawless zone. Three were so reflexively jumpy by the experiences of the past week that they dashed into the remains of a store at the sound of an approaching car....Some Georgian residents said they had been robbed in repeated cycles of home invasion: Three or four armed men would show up with a truck or car, rush through the house and cart off whatever they desired, and then go away. Later, another car would arrive with a different gang.

This went on for days, and apparently was committed by a legion of criminals. But assessing the origins of each individual offense was difficult. Victims spoke of looters from Ossetia, Russia, and, in one case, Chechnya. _NYT
Reminiscent of the nightmare that was Bosnia under the Serbian genocide, Russian soldiers have clearly fallen back on old habits of looting, burning, and drunken assault on civilians. When Russian soldiers are not committing the crimes, they are standing by to protect Ossetians and Chechnyans who perform the acts of pillage and rape.
On Tuesday, a photographer on a Russian tour of the northern area saw what appeared to be a concerted effort to raze some of the villages.....Homes were ripped apart. Sections of courtyard walls lay crushed next to the road. Dozens of men dressed in mismatched fatigues stood on the main road, watching an orange backhoe tear the facade off of a burned stone house.

Timur Kiguradze, a 22-year-old journalist who was wounded by Ossetian soldiers on Aug. 8 outside Tskhinvali, said he felt nervous in the hospital there when wounded Ossetian soldiers discovered that he was Georgian....“They said, why are you being treated?” Mr. Kiguradze recalled. “They should take you out and shoot you.” _NYT
And of course they did take large numbers of Georgians out and shot them. They merely slit the throats of others.

Putin has decided to test the rubbery will of the EU and NATO. How far will they go to protect a small democracy that is not an actual member of the alliance? The effeminate EU has no divisions. But NATO is backed by the only credible worldwide military force in existence. NATO has only to decide whether to hold Russia to its signed ceasefire agreement.

In the meantime, Russian troops are happy where they are. They are enjoying the traditional Russian spoils of war.

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