As we head south to Volgograd and Astrakhan before heading west towards the Crimea, the Georgia/Russia conflict over South Ossetia has blown up in our faces. The Russians reckon ethnic cleansing of villages is occurring, the Georgians reckon Russia has just invented an excuse to snatch South Ossetia and make it part of Russia. Who knows where the truth lies? Certainly not a group of Kiwis just out for a bike ride.
But the flare-up puts our itinerary in jeopardy and we’re going to have to make a call as to just how close to Russia’s borders with Georgia and Chechnya we venture. Further, last night a bomb went off in Sochi and killed a couple of folks. We were looking at going there, given it’s a great part of this section of the Black Sea’s north coast.
We’re sitting in a pub watching the Russian tanks roll into South Ossetia and trying to assess which way to go west from Astrakhan. Looks like the only intelligent decision will come from the intelligence on the ground – CNN and its Russian equivalent are not quite giving us the road map in sufficient detail. While we’d decided to skip Grozny on this leg, we hadn’t quite factored in that the troubles would spread into the Russia/Georgia borderlands. Decision time.