Search and Seizure

The Russians have moved well beyond the purview of the cease-fire agreement, which stipulated "about 1,500 Russian peacekeepers are allowed to remain inside, and can do patrols about 6 kilometers outside, the ‘zone of conflict,' a reference to South Ossetia and Abkhazia." 

Since the cease-fire, and having setup check points, the Russian military has, in essence, become an occupying force and now patrol the Georgia port of Poti, which is not just beyond the "6 kilometers outside, the ‘zone of conflict,' in reference to Abkhazia," but one-hundred kilometers beyond Abkhazia, being in a totally different province.  Ironically, Abkhazia was not a party to the initial flashpoint, which the Russian government used as a pretext for invasion.   All the same, Russia continues to explore new and highly thought-provoking activities:

Russian forces posted near Georgia's strategic Black Sea port of Poti may carry out searches of cargo ships, a top Russian commander was quoted as saying Monday by the RIA Novosti news agency.

"One of the peacekeeping functions of our units in the Abkhazia security zone is to search cargo loads with the goal of preventing diversions and provocations," General Anatoly Nogovitsyn was quoted as saying, referring to an area controlled by Russian forces near Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region.

Russian forces have fortified a position just north of Poti, a port city in western Georgia that has seen major foreign investment in recent years.

Nogovitsyn's comments came a day after a U.S. Navy destroyer arrived at the Georgian port of Batumi, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Poti, the first of three U.S. ships carrying aid to the country in a show of U.S. support.

Asked if Russian forces would seek to control Western warships in the Black Sea, the general replied in the negative.

"Such tasks are not included in the peacekeepers plans," he said, according to ITAR-TASS.

For now, Western (read American) warships will remain unmolested, but the Russian government continues to define and implemented their own idea of what the cease-fire agreement stipulated.  In doing so, Russian forces have gone anywhere they've wanted.  Now, they can search what they want and, dare we think the obvious, take what they want from anyone. 

What's the next step in the process of defining the cease-fire terms as the Russian military settles in, getting comfortable for the coming winter?  As Russian "peacekeeping" activities evolve, moving from search and seizure, the average Georgian may expect to hear:  "Let me see your papers."