The internationalist ultra-nationalists

ukraine_coda_02In eastern Ukraine, a small band of Russian ultra-nationalists have joined the battle against the Russian-backed rebels. Reporter Leonid Ragozin explores their motives and background, exposing the ironies of a conflict that has largely been reported in binary terms as a showdown between Russia and the West. This long-form story highlights the risk of blowback from both sides’ reliance on ultra-nationalists as shock troops. It provides a nuanced corrective to the daily news, inviting a fresh assessment of Russian and Western objectives in Ukraine, as well as the narratives that accompany those objectives. My edit for Coda Story.

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Caucasus foes fight cyber war

Hackers from Russia and Georgia open up a new front in cyberspace as their countries go to war in the Caucasus. Experts say it was inevitable that “the dark side of Silicon Valley” would be enlisted for real-life battles. Analysis for BBC News, August 2008

Ossetian official describes fleeing

An account of the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali from a spokeswoman for South Ossetia’s separatist government. BBC News, August 2008

Georgia sees Iraq as Nato route

Georgia sent 2,000 troops to fight alongside the US in Iraq, making them the third-largest force in the coalition at the start of 2008.

However, this commitment did not bring Tbilisi any closer to Nato, as it had hoped. At a summit that April, the alliance decided against expanding eastwards. Already stalled, Georgia’s Nato ambitions suffered a shattering reversal during its war with Russia that summer, which was seen in the West as a warning against provoking Moscow.

Nevertheless, Georgia’s Iraq deployment was, in some respects, a success. If nothing else, it enabled a tiny Caucasian country to upgrade its Soviet-era military and briefly march in step with the US. Report for BBC News from Tbilisi, April 2008

 

BBC Radio Four’s ‘The World Tonight’: Georgia’s Iraq gamble

In early 2008, Georgia was the third-largest contributor to the US-led coalition in Iraq, sending thousands of troops to guard the border with Iran.

Tbilisi wanted its deployment to pave the way for eventual entry into Nato. But at a summit in April 2008, the alliance balked at encouraging Georgia’s hopes – a move that would have drawn a furious response from Moscow. Georgia’s war with Russia later that summer was seen by many in the West as a further argument against encroaching on Moscow’s “backyard”.

This report from Tbilisi, produced on the eve of the Nato summit, argued that the Iraq deployment had helped Georgia’s military punch above its weight – even if Nato entry remained beyond its reach.

Caucasus on alert over Kosovo

Secessionists stir in the Caucasus over Kosovo’s plans to declare independence. Russia and its allies warned that redrawing borders in the Balkans could destabilise other contested regions. I visited South Ossetia in the winter before Georgia went to war with Russia over the territory. The “frozen conflict” was warming up. Report from Tskhinvali for BBC News, January 2008

Russia’s reach unnerves Chechens

Chechens who fought the Russian army – or simply fled it – cast wistful eyes at their homeland across the border. Report from the Pankisi Gorge for BBC News, January 2008

Russia’s bear bomber returns

Russia’s lumbering Tupolev Tu-95 bombers are flying into airspace patrolled by Nato jets, reviving memories of Cold War-era skirmishes. BBC News, September 2007

An angry photographer in Chechnya

Stanley Greene describes why it is becoming more dangerous to document the conflict in Chechnya. Interview for BBC News, March 2005