Anniversary of the Russian Invasion of Georgia

Published in Politics
Monday, 08 August 2022 12:14

ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE

Fourteen years ago today, Russia invaded the sovereign nation of Georgia.  As we have done since 2008, we remember those killed and injured by Russian forces.  For decades, the citizens of Georgia in Abkhazia and South Ossetia have lived under Russian occupation and tens of thousands have been displaced, persecuted, and impoverished.  Lives and livelihoods have been taken from them.

This year, Russia’s unprovoked further invasion of Ukraine underscores the need for the people of Georgia and Ukraine to stand together in solidarity.  The people of Georgia know all too well how Russia’s aggressive actions, including disinformation, so-called “borderization,” and mass displacement cause untold hardships and destruction.

Russia must be accountable to the commitments it made under the 2008 ceasefire – withdrawing its forces to pre-conflict positions and allowing unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  It also must reverse its recognition of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.  This is essential for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons to be able to return to their homes safely and with dignity.

We remain steadfast in our support for the people of Georgia as they seek to protect their sovereignty and territorial integrity and find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

PRESS STATEMENT 

Why Ukraine’s fight against the virus deserves a look

Published in Health
Monday, 11 May 2020 11:47

On the surface, there is nothing interesting in Ukraine’s fight against coronavirus. Although we don’t know what will happen next, something in Ukraine’s reaction to the virus deserves a second look.

On the surface, there is nothing interesting in Ukraine's fight against coronavirus. At this point, the country has been hit less by the virus than many other countries in Europe have. It does not even enter the top-30 in terms of the number of cases detected; its total death toll just passed 100 (with the daily toll mostly ranging between 5 and 10), compared to over 20,000 in the US, close to 20,000 in Spain, Italy and France, or over 3,000 in Germany.

Although we don't know what will happen next, something in Ukraine's reaction to the virus deserves a second look. The key thing: the country was incredibly fast to introduce a strict quarantine. It was introduced on March 11 when only 1 (!) case was detected. Ukraine closed its borders in mid-March, when the number of reported cases was below 10, with just 1 person dead from the virus.

This early action can be explained simply: Ukrainians are afraid of threats. They are used to them, they face them too often, and understand that sometimes you need to act quickly. Ukrainians enjoy little feeling of protection, a high feeling of a security vacuum and often prefer to act too early instead of too late.

Yevhen Hlibovytskyi, one of Ukraine's most wide-thinking intellectuals, likes to repeat that Ukrainians are perhaps the world's champions in survival. Security and safety values are those which Ukrainians share regardless of their region and which cross language, identity, religion and economic discrepancies.

According to World Values Survey's regular reports, Ukraine remains high in rational values, compared to traditionalist values; but low in terms of self-expression values, and much more inclined towards survival values. This means that Ukrainians, although more rational than we think them to be, will rather choose survival than development.

This is understandable given the peculiarities of Ukraine's history. Ukraine lost about 4 million people in Stalin's artificial famine in 1932-1933; about 1 million died in both the famines of the early 1920s and 1946-47. During World War II its population was reduced by a quarter: about 10 million people, of whom 3-4 million people died as Red Army soldiers; and out of 6 million Holocaust victims, 1 million come from Ukraine. Millions were also victims of the Soviet GULAG, as the Ukrainian intelligentsia was practically annihilated in the 1930s, and many prominent dissidents were sent to the GULAG after  Khrushchev's short-lived Ottepel.

Russian occupation of Crimea and parts of Ukrainian Donbas in 2014, and practically everyday news about deaths on the frontline ever since, merely added to this major feeling of insecurity that penetrates Ukrainian society. Add to this not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also recent forest fires in the Chornobyl area, during which Ukrainian society lived in fear that nuclear waste stores in the area would be affected.

The security vacuum is both external and internal. From outside as Ukraine lacks a security umbrella enjoyed (at least theoretically) by NATO member states, and from inside, as a Ukrainian citizen often sees law-enforcement services as an additional threat rather than protection.

There is a Ukrainian proverb that says it is better to overestimate a threat than to underestimate it. This was the logic behind the strict quarantine that was introduced so early.

Curiously, it is religion that could provoke spiraling in the number of coronavirus cases. Even more curiously, it comes from the Russian church in Ukraine (UPC-MP). Earlier, its Archbishop Pavel, head of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, said that "one should not be afraid of" the epidemic and that the faithful should "hurry to church and hug one another". Not surprisingly, Lavra became one of the hot spots of the virus in Kyiv. Just recently, Metropolitan Onufriy, the head of the UPC-MP, said its churches will hold Easter Sunday services on 19 April -- contrary to quarantine measures and to calls made by other churches (including the newly-established Ukrainian autocephalous church) to stay home. If church attendance is not limited, crowds of people will go to churches on Easter Sunday and face huge risks of virus infection.

What happens this Sunday will also be a test as to how rational Ukrainians are, and whether survival instincts are strong enough to keep them at home.

However, if the security mindset succeeds, it might pose a global question for the future. Namely, should security logic dominate over liberty logic? Should "liberal" openness be victimized and blamed for the pandemic?

It is already being blamed by neo-authoritarian actors who see the pandemic as an additional argument to blame democracy and openness. It is increasingly used by Russian propaganda against the democratic world. With the coronavirus pandemic we are entering a new global debate, where liberal democracy will be brutally attacked.

In this situation, it is important that countries and communities make a clear distinction: more security does not mean less democracy. Limitations of freedom are tolerable when necessary for public health and public safety, but not as a tool to solve all other problems.

The need for a balance between security and freedom, which was stressed by many thinkers in Ukraine over recent years, needs to be real. A balance where freedom is the necessary and unavoidable pole, and security is regarded as the tool to protect our lives and our key values -- including freedom itself.

This material was first published by Ukraine Verstehen

 
 
VOLODYMYR YERMOLENKO
chief editor at UkraineWorld.org, director for analytics at Internews Ukraine

 

OSCE PA call on all the countries to strictly adhere to territorial integrity-Davit Usupashvili

Published in Politics
Monday, 04 July 2016 14:37

The OSCE PA General Committee on Political Affairs and Security adopted the 17-point draft resolution on “Conflict in Georgia”. The supplementary item to the draft resolution was introduced by the Speaker of Georgian Parliament, Mr. David UsupashviliAfter adoption, the Speaker made the comment to media.
The OSCE PA General Committee on Political Affairs and Security voted and supported the draft resolution initiated by us on conflicts in Georgia, clearly underlining all the problems we encounter and calling everything their names – Russian occupation, the problems Georgia encounters and the draft resolution, 57 member states and OSCE PA call on all the countries, all international organizations to strictly adhere to the principles of international law, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. Russia shall fulfill the EU-mediated Cease-Fire Agreement of August, 2008 and let the IDPs return to their homes, shall withdraw the armed formations from these territories and reject declaration and recognition of the regions of Georgia as the independent states.
As the Delegates supporting Georgia, noted during the debates, the document is unprecedented to be clear and it would be further balanced but all unanimously supported the document except the Russian Delegation. It was no surprise for us as the document states to 56 world countries to observe the standards that shall be adhered. It is a very important document. Such resolutions create the reality on international theatre, which shall be solved in our favor.
The document is initiated by us but with cooperation by all OSCE PA Delegations – from majority and minority. We all together worked on the document and it is a good example that when all the political forces stand united on the international arena, the results will be much easier and productive”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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