South Ossetian Unit To Serve In Russian Military
The Russian military base in South Ossetia will soon include a battalion for Ossetians, which government officials say will act as a "forge" to build a capable military in the quasi-independent country, but which looks just as much like a blow against the territory's fragile sovereignty. The government news agency RES quotes Ministry of Defense of South Ossetia spokeswoman Galina Guchmazovа:
"The citizens of South Ossetia, who want to continue to serve in the army, now will be provided with opportunity to acquire new knowledge, learn military discipline and matériel at a level consistent with the Russian armed forces. - Ossetian battalion of the Russian military base will be the forge of professional military personnel for the Republic of South Ossetia."
Emphasis added. What does it mean, those who want to "continue to serve"? Does that imply that South Ossetia's own defense forces are to be discontinued?
The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded quickly, connecting the creation of the battalion to a more general militarization of the territory and the Russian military threat:
[T]he Russian Federation is continuing to build up its military forces, to strengthen its military infrastructure and to deploy offensive weapons in Georgia's occupied regions. These regions have, in fact, been turned into large military bases and their inhabitants are either employed in the Russian military bases themselves or are serving with the Russian occupation troops, as most recently attested by the fact of the creation of the so-called "Ossetian battalion".
But the threat of this move would seem less to Georgia than to the people of South Ossetia who don't want to be controlled by Russia. This move was announced just a few days after would-be president Alla Joiyeva, says she was badly beaten (with Moscow's apparent consent) for her independent political ambitions. All this suggests that whatever shreds of sovereignty Tskhinvali once exercised are disappearing, and that Russian control is becoming more formalized.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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