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October 5, 2006
Russia Targets Georgians

The Russians do not want to let go of a grudge. They have apparently started a de facto pogrom against Georgians within their borders after the arrest of four alleged spies in Tbilisi this week. The release of the suspects has apparently done nothing to slake the Russian thirst for revenge:

Georgians living in Russia felt the Kremlin's wrath yesterday as it retaliated against its neighbour following the spying row between the two countries last week.

Police raided Georgian restaurants and other businesses in Moscow, apparently looking for minor legal violations in order to force their closure or criminalise their owners. The Kristall casino and Golden Palace entertainment complex were closed down after it was discovered that their Georgian owners were "criminal bosses" according to Russian state TV.

Russia imposed an economic embargo on Georgia following the crisis, which also saw Moscow hint at military action against its neighbour after four Russian soldiers were detained in Georgia on espionage charges. They were released on Monday.

Yesterday a Georgian arm-wrestling champion was reported murdered in Moscow in an attack which his family said was carried out by nationalist skinheads as a result of the conflict.

Residents at a shelter for refugees in the south-west of the city said police had ordered all Georgians there to report to police. In Podmoskovoye, the region surrounding Moscow, police arrested a group of criminals who had allegedly organised contract killings. Those arrested were said to be Georgians, in what appeared to be a convenient smear.

Georgia released the four spies after this row broke out into the open. Despite conciliatory language from Georgia'a president Mikhail Saakashvili, Vladimir Putin seems to want an ethnic war, either in Russia or Georgia, or both. He wants to make the Georgians pay for the public humiliation Putin received when Saakashvili reached West diplomatically instead of towards Moscow.

In its way, the Russian pogrom appears to be based on the Nuremburg Laws. Georgians have become the new Jews. Business owners are suddenly part of organized crime. The movement of their funds may be restricted by the Duma. State employees with Georgian visas will lose their jobs. Georgians have been blackballed from Russian military academies -- in Georgia! The only things missing from this latest example of ethnic scapegoating is a Krystallnacht and Hermann Goering.

It will not take much in this incendiary climate to start a military conflict. In fact, it seems like Putin is aiming for exactly that. He has roused the entire Russian state apparatus in a quest to humiliate Georgians inside and outside of Russia, and the actions increasingly border on the insane. The rest of the G-8 nations should remind Putin that he already provides them enough embarassment as a member, and that his status in the club may come in for the same kind of scrutiny he's currently applying to Georgians. Someone needs to throw a bucket of ice water in Putin's face before he melts down entirely, and that would be a good place to start.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 5, 2006 4:57 AM

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