Oil prices surged Aug. 11 on concerns that fighting between Russia and Georgia could threaten the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Crude was up by $1.19 to $116.39 a barrel in New York. It rose $1.81 to $115.14 a barrel in London. (London Evening Standard, Aug. 11) Georgia's Black Sea ports of Supsa and Batumi, key transfer points for crude exports from Azerbaijan, have been reduced to partial operation as a result of the fighting. A third Georgian port, Poti, is completely shut following air-strikes. (Lloyd's List, Aug. 11) The Baku-Supsa pipeline, completed in 1999 by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), has a capacity of 115,000 barrels per day (bpd). (Alexander's Oil & Gas, May 17, 1999) The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline has a capacity of 1 million bpd (1% of daily world consumption). (Reuters, Aug. 7)
Georgian authorities say Russian warplanes are targeting the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, and have carried out over 50 air-strikes near the conduit. A BP-led consortium operates the pipeline, which transports one million barrels a day from Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean. "They need control of energy routes," Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said of the Russians. "They need sea ports. They need transportation infrastructure. And primarily, they want to get rid of us." (The Telegraph, Aug. 11)
Georgia is calling home 1,000 of its 2,000 troops in Iraq for a general mobilization to fight Russian-backed separatists in South Ossetia. Georgia's national security chief Kakha Lomaia said Tbilisi ordered the withdrawal to "defend ourselves from Russian aggression." (AGI, Aug. 8) Late Aug. 8, Georgian officials reported at least one Russian air-strike, on the Black Sea port of Poti. They said Russian bombers were flying over Georgian territory and that the presidential offices and residence in Tbilisi had been evacuated. (NYT, Aug. 9)
Georgia declared a cease-fire following an outburst of heavy fighting with separatist forces in the breakaway region of South Ossetia Aug. 7. Georgia is blaming Russia for the escalation of violence. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in televised remarks: "The Russian peacekeeping forces told us several hours ago that they have totally lost control over the separatist forces. We are in permanent contact with the Russian Foreign Ministry, but it fails to convince the separatist[s] to cease fire." Moscow has not yet responded to the claim.
A series of explosions in three towns in the Georgian separatist region of Abkhazia—Gagra, Sukhumi, and Gali—and a skirmish between Georgian and separatist forces in the Georgian-controlled Upper Kodori Gorge topped the agenda as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice July 9-10. The Abkhaz separatist government in Sukhumi blames Tbilisi for the violence; Tbilisi, of course, blames Moscow. Sukhumi alleges the attacks are aimed at scaring Russians away from Abkhazia's Black Sea resorts, just as the summer tourist season gets under way.
From Human Rights Watch, June 25:
Russia: Stop 'Dirty War' Tactics in Ingushetia
Killings, Torture, Disappearances in Chechnya-Style Counterinsurgency
Moscow – The Chechnya armed conflict has spread human rights abuses and instability across the North Caucasus, and particularly in Ingushetia, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch urged the Russian government to amend its counterinsurgency techniques and address impunity for violations in Ingushetia to ensure that the situation does not descend to the appalling abuses that characterized the conflict in Chechnya.
Thousands marched in Yerevan April 24, the 93rd anniversary of the start of the mass killing campaign of at least 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. More than 10,000, mostly youths and students, carried torches and candles, demanding Turkey join several other countries around the world in officially recognizing the massacres as genocide. After burning a Turkish flag in Yerevan's Freedom Square, participants marched to a monument to the victims of the genocide, where they laid wreaths and flowers. Many carried flags of the 23 countries whose governments or parliaments have recognized the killings as genocide, including Canada, France, Switzerland and Poland.
Officials in Georgia are seeking to use the alleged downing of a Georgian reconnaissance drone by a Russian warplane to build international support for reducing the Kremlin's "peacekeeping" role in the separatist enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia's Foreign Ministry asserts that a Russian MIG-29 shot down the Georgian Interior Ministry drone off the Black Sea coastline of Abkhazia April 20. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says the drone's final video footage provides "clear proof" of a Russian violation of Georgian airspace.