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At UN, Georgia Mocks Puppet States and Sochi Olympics, French Mistrals to Russia Without Hi-Tech?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 19 -- Abkhazia and South Ossetia are "puppet" states, Georgia's Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze told the Press on Monday at the UN in New York. Inner City Press asked Vashadze to comment on Nicaragua's recognition last week of their unilateral declaration of independence. The UDI was illegal, Vashadze replied, the number of states offering recognition doesn't mean anything.

Inner City Press asked, how does it compare to Kosovo? I'm not going to comment, Vashadze said, adding that Georgia has not recognized Kosovo's UDI. But the U.S. and nearly whole EU, of course, have.

  Vashadze denied that Georgia has been in any way snubbed by the Obama administration's rapprochement with Russia. As he spoke, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice and Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin were offering mutual praises at a disarmament meeting on the other side of the UN campus.

  What about France moving to sell Mistrals to Russia, Inner City Press asked. Previously, French Ambassador Gerard Araud rebuffed Inner City Press' question on this, calling it "no a UN question." But at the UN Monday, Vashadze said Georgia has raised its concerns, and that perhaps the Mistrals will be sold without sensitive technology.

  Since Vashadze had said he had time, the Icelandic volcano did not allow him to leave New York, Inner City Press asked for his views of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, might they soften relations between Georgia and Russia. To Vashadze, apparently, the only thing softening is the little bit of snow in the Sochi region.

Vashadze called it "Bolshevik" to try to hold a Winter Olympics in the "tropics." He spoke of Russia carting sand and gravel out of Abkhazia, which will leave it "half under water." Why not try to hold the Winter Olympics in the Sahara, he asked rhetorically. No, there is no thaw.

  While Russia's Churkin back in March told Inner City Pres that Abkhazia remains "technically" on the UN Security Council's agenda, Vashadze on Monday said "there are no Georgia questions on the Security Council agenda," that the country can only proceed in the General Assembly.

US' Hillary Clinton and Georgia's
Vashadze, Russia, Sochi and NATO not shown

  He predicted a legal win in the International Court of Justice in September, but said that the International Criminal Court process is probably "over" since the ICC has no access to the two "territories" or to Russia. He responded to Inner City Press' questions about NATO with a long and seemingly too optimistic answer, video here.

All that said, Inner City Press asked about the upcoming May 30 elections, regarding which the country's former Prime Minister has said fraud could be expected. Vashadze said he hadn't heard that complaint -- it's here, via Bloomberg -- certainly not from former UN Ambassador and candidate Irakli Alasania. But he is quoted in Bloomberg. There will be election observers. We'll see.

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At UN, Russia Slams MOU with NATO, Georgia "Technically" on Council Agenda

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 2 -- Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, in an increasingly rare on the record session with the Press, trashed the UN's "semi-transparent" memorandum of understanding with NATO while praising the "CIS Symphonic Orchestra" and a road safety resolution sponsored by the Russian Federation.

Since he's called the MOU "semi-transparent," Inner City Press asked Ambassador Churkin if he had seen the whole agreement and if so, why not release it? Churkin laughed. "You underestimate our persistence here," he said, adding that Russia saw the MOU the day it was signed. Video here, from Minute 23:09.

  His complaint, he said, was the NATO's Secretary General has been misrepresenting this "modest document... out of proportion," most recently at the Munich Conference. Churkin said Russia had been "unpleasantly surprised at the way it was done." It was done under UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Inner City Press asked Churkin about Mr. Ban's naming of Finland's Antti Turunen as his Representative for Georgia, replacing Johan Verbeke of Belgium -- does this mean that Georgia is still on the Security Council agenda? "Technically it is," Churkin replied.

  He said that Turunen will represent the UN at the Geneva talks, and that his appointment has the subject of a letter of information from Mr. Ban to the President of the Security Council which didn't require a reply.

Finland's Stubb and Russia's Churkin, Turunen to Georgia not shown

  On road safety, earlier on Tuesday Inner City Press asked WHO's Etienne Krug, does the drive for better roads simply lead to more driving and pollution? Inner City Press asked -- video here, from Minute 8:39 -- but Krug said that the UN is also in favor of more and safer public transportation.

  Inner City Press also asked about the UN's own drive practices. Krug said that road accidents are the leading cause of death of UN staff worldwide, and that the UN should improve its practices. But will it?

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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