A Little Victorious Retreat

MOSCOW, Russia -- Four armchairs will remain empty during the meeting of CIS leaders in Moscow. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko declined in the last moment the invitation to the informal CIS summit which opens in Moscow today.

Tbilisi explained Mikhail Saakashvili’s refusal to participate in CIS summit by saying that Moscow refused to take the hand of friendship extended to Russia.

Both Tbilisi and Kiev say the invitation was declined because Vladimir Putin refused to hold bilateral meetings with them. Georgian State Minister for Settling Conflicts Georgy Khaindrava was dismissed yesterday. Moscow believes this is a sign that Georgia is preparing for a military takeover of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Four CIS leaders will miss the informal CIS summit in Moscow. Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov lost interest in CIS meetings quite a long time ago. Armenian President Robert Kocharyan pleaded ill. As to Mikhail Saakashvili and Viktor Yushchenko, it was believed until yesterday’s morning they would visit Moscow.

Everything in the airport of Tbilisi was ready for Saakashvili’s flight to Moscow yesterday at noon. Delegation members were sitting in the airplane. Saakashvili’s personal photographer and cameraman were waiting in the VIP-hall. The announcement of Georgian presidential administration that Saakashvili will not fly to Moscow was a complete surprise.

Georgian officials said that Russia refused to hold a one-on-one meeting between Saakashvili and Putin, while Georgian president intended to discuss very important issues—the ways to settle South Ossetian and Abkhazian conflicts.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko did not come to Moscow due to the complicated political situation in Ukraine. This is the official version. Yet, Kommersant sources in Yushchenko’s administration say he planned not to come to the summit from the very beginning. Yushchenko would have come to Moscow on Friday to meet with Putin. However, he was denied that meeting.

Robert Kocharyan, on the contrary, had a scheduled meeting with Putin. However, he did not come because of “acute virus disease of respiratory tracts”. Kommersant source completely refuted the “diplomatic character” of Kocharyan’s illness, saying that Armenian president has indeed caught cold and lost his voice after swimming in the Sevan lake on Monday.

The Kremlin’s Reaction

The refusal of four CIS leaders to come to Moscow obviously vexed Russian president’s administration.

“Has President Putin ever refused to meet with anyone?”, asked a high-placed Kommersant source in the Kremlin. “When they ask him about anything, he always meets them. Sometimes it spoils all our schedules. Did Mister Saakashvili learn only yesterday that we do not, will not, and cannot have time for a pre-scheduled bilateral meeting with such complicated agenda?

Or, perhaps, he did not realize there will be a presidential dinner in the X hour when he could have approached Russian president and discussed everything with him, including the meeting?

Last year, it was the same story with Ukrainian president. He simply came up to Russian president, talked to him, they had meeting right away, held full talks, and then even came out to journalists. It could have been just like that now too. But, apparently, it was unnecessary, because Georgian president simply had nothing to say during such a meeting. Here is the main reason why Georgian president will not come to Moscow.”

A Retiree

After the news that Saakashvili’s visit to Moscow is cancelled, another hot news arrived: Georgian State Minister for Settling Conflicts Georgy Khaindrava is dismissed. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Merab Antadze is expected to take the post. Georgy Khaindrava himself learned about his dismissal from journalists, and was really surprised.

It should be reminded that after the incident of detaining Russian diplomatic car this week, Khaindrava called this incident “unacceptable and contradicting the Vienna Declaration on diplomatic immunity.” In response, Georgian Minister of Defense Irakly Okruashvili accused Khaindrava of “coquetry” and “show-off”.

Moscow believes Saakashvili’s refusal to visit Moscow and Khaindrava’s dismissal are two interconnected events which testify to the fact that Georgia took the direction on increasing confrontation with Russia in what concerns the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Konstantin Kosachev said: “Tbilisi stakes on confrontation with Russia, hoping it will create the basis for a military solution first of South Ossetian, then of Abkhazian conflicts. Apparently, Tbilisi needs a little victorious war. Unfortunately, everything is going that way.”

Tskhinvali took the news in pretty much the same way. “Georgy Khaindrava was for the peaceful solution of the conflicts, and we believed in his aspirations for peace. The dismissal of Khaindrava is the evidence that Georgia is preparing a military action against South Ossetia,” said Boris Chochiev, South Ossetian Minister of Special Affairs.

Source: Kommersant