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Kokoity accused of corruption

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, December 8
Former allies of breakaway South Ossetia’s leader Eduard Kokoity have declared there is corruption in the separatist Government.

In interviews published in the Russian media, Kokoity is accused of misusing Russian money donated for the restoration of South Ossetia after the conflict in August. Former South Ossetian de facto Prime Minister Yuri Morozov, talking to Kommersant, stated that millions of Russian rubles sent by the Federal Russian Government to the breakaway Republic have “disappeared” under unknown circumstances.

On December 5 Kokoity announced the dismissal of de facto Finance Minister Aleksey Panteleev, a former Russian official, and replaced him by Inal Pukhaev, an official from the Finance Ministry of Russia’s North Ossetian Republic. Yuri Morozov considers this move might be linked to infighting for the control over the financial inflows from the Russian Federation.

“Before the war, when I was leading the Government, all the financial inflows accumulated in the hands of the head of the Government,” Morozov said. “It irritated the President [Eduard Kokoity] and he always tried to take decision-making on these [financial] matters into his hands. But Moscow made him understand that the position of Prime Minister, appointed by Moscow, existed in order to make financial inflows transparent. But the situation changed after the war,” Morozov continued. “President Kokoity set up a Presidium – similar to that in Russia. However, unlike in Russia, this Presidium is led not by the Prime Minister, but by the President himself. Hence, all financial decisions are now concentrated in Mr. Kokoity’s hands. Power usurpation has taken place. I think Panteleev has understood the utter absurdity of such a situation.”

Morozov’s statements are supported by another ex-separatist official, Anatoly Barankevich, who used to be South Ossetian de facto Defence Minister and Head of its Security Council. He has accused Kokoity of lobbying for his personal interests and stealing Russian money. Talking to Kommersant, Barankevich mentioned that requests from the separatist Government for Russian financial support were wilfully overestimated and only a small portion of the received funds was used to undertake repair works in cities destroyed during the conflict. He also said that members of Kokoity’s Government are often taking decisions on their own, not consulting with the central power. Anatoly Barankevich is a former Russian officer who has worked in South Ossetia since 2004. During the August conflict he personally took part in street battles in Tskhinvali against Georgian troops. Talking about Eduard Kokoity, Barankevich stated that “his [Kokoity’s] place is not in the President’s seat.”

The Russian media also states that after war Barankevich was even more popular among South Ossetians than Kokoity himself. The Russians recall the case when two Ossetian fighters, the Kozaev brothers, accused Kokoity of “hiding in Java village” during the war. They were arrested and expelled from the breakaway region.

Speaking on December 7, Kokoity denied all the allegations of corruption, stating that repair works in South Ossetia are conducted in an “intensified regime” and he “doesn’t let his people steal.” Russian political analysts think that recent events in the separatist Government are connected with a Russian attempt to appoint as many Russian officials in South Ossetia as possible. “The struggle in the [South Ossetian de facto] Government is occurring because the centre [Moscow] doesn’t have guarantees that its finances will be used for the right purpose,” stated Russian political expert Andrey Serenko, quoted by online magazine. “Moscow understands that there was no control over finances in South Ossetia before, and now it wants to have people in Tskhinvali who can be trusted,” concludes Serenko.

South Ossetia is a breakaway province of Georgia which was recognized as independent by Russia on August 26 after Georgian-Russian war. This recognition was strongly condemned by the international community, including the USA, EU and OSCE. Georgia has declared the region “occupied by Russia.”