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Georgia Border Fence

In late August 2008 the press reported that Russian forces and Abkhaz "authorities" were beginning construction of a 3-meter concrete wall along the 80-km administrative border, but a Russian news source quoted General Zaitsev, chief of the Abkhaz "General Staff," as refuting the story. Deputy Minister for Reintegration Rakviashvili was initially unable to confirm the story, but was investigating. Although the ministry had received reports of actual construction, one possible explanation is that reinforcement of Russian checkpoints was misinterpreted as wall construction.

The press also reported that Russian forces established a new checkpoint at Teklati, just outside Senaki on the road to Poti, and installed anti-aircraft positions at various checkpoints. Substantial Russian movements into Gali, including 32 tanks, 40 armored vehicles and 50 personnel carriers, were also reported, although UNOMIG sources had no information about such movements.

Abkhaz press reported that on September 3 "President" Bagapsh appointed Sergei Jonua as "envoy" to the upper Kodori Gorge, where he will also serve as "head of administration," based in Azhara. Another report cited Georgian officials as indicating that Zaza Gurchiani was also appointed "head of administration" in the Kodori Gorge; the relationship between Jonua and Gurchiani was not clear.

Like other former Soviet Republics, Georgias newly declared independence was followed by ethnic and civil strife. Secessionists took control of parts of South Ossetia and most of Abkhazia prior to cease-fire agreements brokered in 1992 and 1994, respectively. Georgia began to stabilize in 1995. However, the separatist conflicts in Georgia's regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain unresolved. Periodic flare-ups in tension and violence culminated in a 5-day war in August 2008 between Georgia and Russia. French President Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated a cease-fire between Presidents Mikheil Saakashvili and Dmitriy Medvedev on August 12, 2008, which remains in effect.

The mandate for the OSCE mission to monitor the 1992 cease-fire in South Ossetia and to facilitate negotiations between parties to the conflict expired in 2008. The UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) established to monitor compliance with the 1994 cease-fire agreement in Abkhazia came to an end in June 2009. Neither mandate was extended after Russia blocked consensus among participating member states in the OSCE and vetoed a Security Council resolution to extend the mandate of the UN mission. The EU maintains a monitoring mission on the undisputed Georgian side of the administrative boundary lines between the separatist regions and undisputed Georgia, but is not allowed inside Abkhazia or South Ossetia by the separatists or occupying Russian forces.

By 2013, five years after the Russia-Georgia War, a 'Rural Berlin Wall' - two-meter-high rolls of razor wire - course through Georgia's countryside, dividing farms, families and villages. Russian soldiers are putting up kilometers of fencing and earthen berms, creating what some call rural Berlin Walls. Russian soldiers patrol the border daily, walking down a border footpath with dogs. The fence used to be shorter, but they made it longer. Russian troops are using earthen berms, irrigation ditches, fencing and razor wire to demarcate temporary cease-fire lines as international borders.

"There have been more and more fences being built, and this is a big concern," European Union Monitoring Mission Spokesman Gergely Fulop said in Tbilisi in August 2013. Estimating that 27 kilometers of barriers have been built in recent months, he added: "This stops everyday lives of people there. It restricts very badly the freedom of movement there. Georgian parliamentarian Giorgi Vashadze said the new government of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili is not standing up to Russia. He says the old UNM party government of President Mikhail Saakashvili would have led an international protest campaign over the fences.

On the new border barriers, Prime Minister Ivanishvili is cautiously optimistic: When it comes to the situation in occupied territories, putting barbed wire on so-called border lines, this creates tension with Russia," he told VOA. "But it will be eventually solved, most likely after the Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.

On 16 July 2015, Moscow-backed security forces moved the administrative boundary fence dividing the Russian occupied region of South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia - thereby placing more Georgian territory under Russian control. Russia's actions now place the administrative boundary fence within 500m of Georgia's E60 highway, which is the main road linking the Black Sea to Azerbaijan. The new fence also places a 1.6km segment of the BP-operated Baku-Supsa pipeline inside Russian occupied territory.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2015 20:39:03 ZULU