Archive for September, 2007

Okruashvili arrested

September 28, 2007

Following the events of recent days (arrests of Okruashvili’s allies and Okruashvili’s toe-curling accusations against Saakashvili,) Okruashvili himself has now been arrested.

So what’s the deal?

Is Okruashvili telling the truth – even partial – and Saakashvili taking him out with politically-motivated charges of tax evasion, corruption and criminal negligence? Or, was Okruashvili’s speech and the hideous charges contained therein delivered in anticipation (and in an attempt to blacken his accusers first) of what he knew would be grounded charges coming his way?

At first, I had entertained thoughts about the whole thing being an LDPR-like attempt to play the Russians, suggesting that “either you deal with Saakashvili, or this is the nut you’ll be forced to deal with.” That could have been possible, had the accusations not been so serious. Having left no way for himself to climb down now, Okruashvili has to be seen as an implacable enemy of the president.

As he is the second-most popular politician in Georgia, this could start a political earthquake. Already, there have been calls for mass rallies in Tbilisi, starting today.

You tell me. I find this story fascinating.

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Georgia conspiracy theory kick-off?

September 27, 2007

Well, someone’s got to do it, so let it be me.

Saakashvili and Okruashvili going at it, hammer and tongs. Accusations of corruption fly both ways. Mr. O accuses Saaka of fascism, nepotism, incompetance, backing down in the face of Russia, etc. Another charge was attempted murder of Badri Partaksishvili a friend and ally of whom? That’s right – Boris Berezovsky.

Discuss among yourselves and see my post (planned for tomorrow) on convergence in post-Soviet politics, but, for now…fill in the dots for fun. Craziest theory wins a prize.

Strong book recommendation

September 27, 2007

Here’s a book that I recommend highly to anyone with an interest in linguistics, history, Jewish culture, Woody Allen, Mordecai Richler or in just plain, good, informative and hilarious writing:

Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods.

The author, I was very pleased to discover, is a fellow Canadian, Michael Wex.

I’m only 4 chapters in so far, but I’ve already raised my knowledge (and consciousness) regarding Yiddish and Jewish history by an order of magnitude.

If there’s one big plus to living on one side of the Dnipro and working on the other (with a 40-minute metro ride each way,) it’s having books like this to absorb and amuse one.

If you’ve got tsuris, don’t be a glomp – buy this book, even if you’re a goy or goye. Wex tells no bobe-mayse!

Happier news for Georgia

September 27, 2007

Also about a heavy clash, but one in which all of Georgia came out the winner.

The Georgian national rugby team beat Namibia 30-0 to secure their first ever victory at the Rugby World Cup.

Just one win may not look like a lot, but it has to be said that the Georgian team has played magnificently this year, even managing to give the Irish team (underperforming so far, but still a perennial power in rugby,) a scare bordering on outright terror.

It looks as though we’ll see more Georgian players playing for top-flight clubs in Europe and I’m guessing there’s a lot more to come from Georgia, now that they’ve got people’s attention.

Well done to the Lelos!

Saakashvili hits back

September 27, 2007

In response to Irakli Okruashvili’s verbal Molotov cocktail aimed squarely at President Saakashvili, Giga Bokeria – a big noise in Saakashvili’s ruling party – has come out swinging too, labelling the speech as “hysterical” and “groundless.”

In what would have to be seen as a below-the-belt shot, considering the views of both the puncher and the punchee, Bokeria goes on to compare Okruashvili’s speech to that of Russian politicos and to the manner of Igor Giorgadze.

Blood mops to the centre of the ring, please…

Serious political punch-up in Georgia

September 27, 2007

One thing you have to say for Irakli Okruashvili: he doesn’t mince words.

In the past, he’s been known for making rather…erm…”forceful” statements, with regard to Ossetian and Abkhazian separatism (“We’ll see the New Year in in Tsinkhvali,” for example,) or on the tolerance of Russian wine consumers for fecal matter. In fact, many speculated that his inability to moderate his statements in public had a lot to do with his removal from the post of Minister of Defense.

Others, however, saw it as a preliminary move by President Saakashvili to pre-empt Okruashvili’s emergence as a credible challenger to his own unrivalled power.

Adherents of both sides of this argument are going to gain sustenance from recent events in Georgia.

The first blow (not counting Okruashvili’s removal from the Ministry of Defense) was struck when Mikheil Kareli, former governor of Shidi Kartli, was arrested for bribery September 23rd. It may or may not surpise you that he is viewed as a friend of Irakli’s.

Next, Dimitri Kitoshvili, Saakashvili’s press secretary and parliamentary secretary, was arrested on charges of extortion. “But that’s Saakashvili’s man,” I hear you say, “and surely his arrest goes against Saakashvili’s interests and is, therefore, likely legitimate, as it would have had to have been carried out with his knowledge?” But, – aha! – it turns out that Mr. Kitoshvili was formerly a partner in a legal practice with Okruashvili, and is felt to have been a sympathiser. “So what?” you say. So this: IF it is true that Saakashvili wants to make sure that Okruashvili will not be a threat to him, he’s not only going to want to see to it that there are no “Okruashvili spies” within his own perimetre; he’s going to want to kill two birds with one stone, removing Kitoshvili AND pre-emptively nailing Okruashvili with a corruption-by-association charge.

Outlandish? I think not, particularly as – on the same day that Okrauashvili made a savage speech, condemning Saakashvili(see below) – the tax authorities opened an investigation into the latter’s acquisition of his office space in Tbilisi.

The speech itself – wow. In the space of 10 minutes, Okruashvili accused Saakashvili of murder, corruption, weakness, incompetance, fascism and hatred of the Georgian Orthodox Church. In short, something to un-appeal to everyone. Perhaps his time ran out before he could claim that Saakashvili eats babies, kicks kittens and framed the Grinch over that whole Christmas thing.

Now, I’m no fan of either of them. I don’t go for this “good guy Misha” act of Saakashvili’s, or for his demagoguery (though I guess it works, if he gets 96% in elections, and arrests swathes of oppositionists on charges of treason, without anyone in the West batting an eye.) Nor am I particularly fond of Okruashvili’s boorishness and visible tendency to believe his own hype as a military genius (a weakness of many purely civilian defense officials.)

These two are obviously shaping up for a cataclysmic battle in the Georgian political space and it promises to be highly entertaining, in a horrifying way. If this is the beginning, what can we expect to see by the end?

I’m still in shock from the savagery of Okruashvili’s speech. I imagine that his supporters will say that the tone and the accusations are entirely justified by the acute horror into which Saakashvili has plunged Georgia (which even I don’t believe he’s done.) My only question would be: “Why has Mr. O taken such an irredeemable step?” With the things he’s said, there’s no going back, no wiggle room, no way of saying he “misspoke” (a word for which Larry Speakes should burn in hell forever.)

It would seem to come down to two very stark choices: either Saakashvili, in some way, resembles the wholly unflattering painted by Okruashvili, or it is the latter who is a lying scumbag.

Conspiracy theorists take note: I have discarded the idea that it all may be intended to fool Russians.

NU-NS Defeatism?

September 25, 2007

Kirilenko threatens new election, if the new Rada fails to pass the motion on removing immunity from deputies. Yawn – more elections is hardly what Ukraine needs.

Anyway, the more interesting part is that he addressed this threat to PoR: has NU-NS already come to the conclusion that they have little to look forward to in this election, and that PoR does?

http://www.pravda.com.ua/ru/news/2007/9/25/64279.htm

Depressing election possibilities

September 25, 2007

This morning’s Сегодня had a worrying rundown of the techniques we may see used by the losing side (or sides) in the upcoming election. From party scrutineers at the local level refusing to certify results, right up to deputies’ refusal to accept their seats in the Rada.

It’s all eminently possible.

Read it here: http://vybory.segodnya.ua/news/468833.html

Back from Montreal…

September 23, 2007

Hey there,

Had a superb 8 days in Montreal, house-hunting and taking part in a drink-soaked 50th anniversary celebration for my club, the Montreal Wanderers RFC. Great to see a lot of the fellows I played with starting in 1981. Some serious hangovers, but no serious injuries, despite the fact that I hadn’t played in 5 years, after doing my back in at a training session in Kazakhstan. Two days after the match, however, I did manage to twist my ankle painfully, getting up out of an armchair at my mother’s! The ravages of age…

The Ukrainian election campaign is in full, brutal swing. I hope to have some time to jot down some of my impressions tomorrow. For now, all I can say is that, whatever party is elected is going to have to come up with unimaginable stacks of cash to pay for all our their promises. What am I saying…?