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At UN, Near-Snuff Film of Russian Peacekeepers in Georgia, Helicopter Murky

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 31 -- What appeared to be a snuff film was screened Wednesday in the UN's press briefing room, with running commentary by Georgia's Ambassador Irakli Alasania. He said the footage showed Russian peacekeepers attacking Georgian soldiers, forcing them onto the ground at gunpoint, handcuffing them to stationary vehicles. All this took place, he said, in a peace camp near Ganmukhuri. Suddenly Georgian president Saakashvili appears to free the Georgia soldiers. "Where did you get this footage?" Amb. Alasania was asked. He answered that the Russian troops had tried to take a Georgia television reporters tapes, but that this reporter, "courageously," had recouped not only his tape, but also a more damning one filmed by the Russians themselves. Video here, from Minute 2:24.

UN peacekeepers talk Georgia, snuff film not shown

            Inner City Press asked Amb. Alasania how this would impact talks between Georgia and Abkhaz authorities, and about Russia's charge that Georgia has fired at a Russian peacekeeper helicopter. Video here, from Minute 9:10. Amb. Alasania portrayed the Georgia - Abkhaz talks as going well, but imperiled by Russia's actions. Georgia has declared Russian General Sergei Chaban to be persona non grata. In fact, they say he is already in the country illegal, that his mandate expired in February 2006. Amb. Alasania said he was not aware of the helicopter shooting issue. Reports are spreading, from here to here. We will await Georgia's response, and also Russia's review of Wednesday's snuff film. Watch this site, including for surprising recent interview with UN Peacekeeping official about Georgia.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540