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War in Georgia

At the beginning of the 20th century, Georgia was the victim of Russian aggression that led to 70 years of Soviet occupation. In 1991, Georgia regained its independence; this was followed by political and economic instability caused by the Russian Federation. Like other former Soviet Republics, Georgia’s newly declared independence was followed by ethnic and civil strife.

At the beginning of the 1990s, aggressive separatist movements—fueled and supported by the Russian Federation—triggered an armed confrontation in which military forces of the Russian Federation directly participated, together with local criminal groups. This confrontation resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Georgians, a fact recognized by the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe, and the European Parliament.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.

In order to infringe upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and to limit its free and democratic choice, in August 2008 the Russian Federation perpetrated a further military aggression, accompanied by a new wave of ethnic cleansing. The unlawful actions of the Russian Federation are documented in the Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, commissioned by the European Union. The occupation of Georgian territories by the Russian Federation is recognized by a number of governments, as well as by international governmental and non-governmental organizations.

In an attempt to legalize the results of its military aggression, the Russian government, ignoring the principles of international law and the Ceasefire Agreement signed by the Russian Federation and Georgia on August 12, 2008, declared the occupied regions to be independent states and deployed new military forces and infrastructure in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region. In addition, the Russian Federation appealed to other members of the international community to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region, placing political and economic pressure on certain countries to do so.

The military occupation of part of Georgian territory by the Russian Federation breaches the sovereignty of Georgia and is a factor that impedes its statehood and subverts its political, economic, and social development. The intensive militarization of the occupied regions and the deployment of Russian ground, air, naval, and border forces breaches Georgia’s sovereignty and endangers security in the region as a whole. Russia’s disrespect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states—and its attempts to change the European and Euro-Atlantic security architecture and restore principle of “spheres of influence”—endanger not only Georgia, but also all states that are neighbors of the Russian Federation as well as European security in general.

Russia’s military aggression in August 2008 not only aimed at the occupation of Georgian territories and the international recognition of the proxy regimes, but also sought to trigger a change on Georgia’s foreign policy and the violent overthrow of its democratically elected government. The ruling political elite of the Russian Federation view an independent and democratic Georgia as an important threat. Therefore, the Russian Federation aims to turn Georgia into a failed state, to hinder the realization of Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic choice, and to forcibly return Georgia to the Russian political orbit. The presence of Russian military forces in the occupied Georgian territories, and the construction and strengthening of military bases there, create a staging-ground for provocations and a bridgehead for a possible renewed military aggression.

The Russian Federation is in breach of the fundamental norms of international law, fails to fulfill the Russian-Georgian Ceasefire Agreement of August 12, 2008, and refuses to pledge not to attack Georgia. It blocks the work of the UN and OSCE missions in Georgia, resists the implementation of the European Union Monitoring Mission’s mandate in the occupied territories, and opposes the idea of creating an international peacekeeping/police mechanism. Considering all this, there is a risk of renewed Russian aggression. However, international support for Georgia, as well as the presence of the European Union Monitoring Mission on the ground, are important deterrents to possible aggression.

The EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) was established in 2008 to help stabilise the situation in post-war Georgia and to monitor the compliance with the Six Point Plan of 12 August and the implementation of the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement of 8 September. The EUMM’s presence has been critical to preventing renewed conflict. With the demise of the UNOMIG and OSCE missions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia respectively, the 300 strong EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) is the only remaining international observer mission in Georgia, although it does not have access to the separatist territories. In September 2008, the EU established a Special Representative (EUSR) for the Crisis in Georgia to ensure coordination and consistency of external EU actions in the region. The EUSR plays a key role in the Geneva Talks (which he co-chairs with the UN and OSCE), the only forum that brings Georgians, Russians, Abkhaz and South Ossetians together, and which treats Russia as a party to the conflict.

February and April 2010 agreements between Moscow and the de facto Abkhaz and de facto South Ossetian authorities, respectively, establishing Russian military bases in the separatist regions for 49 years, are inconsistent with the terms of the August 12 cease-fire agreement negotiated by French President Sarkozy and signed by Georgian President Saakashvili and Russian President Medvedev. The cease-fire agreement calls for the parties to: refrain from resorting to the use of force, ensure a definitive halt to hostilities, provide free humanitarian access to the separatist regions, withdraw forces to their pre-conflict positions, and open international discussions on security and stability in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In accordance with this agreement the EU, UN, and OSCE co-host ongoing Geneva-based talks on security and stability arrangements in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.

The governments of Georgia, Russia, and the United States send representatives to participate in the talks, and de facto authorities from Abkhazia and South Ossetia also participate, as do representatives of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian governments-in-exile. The talks have established Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) designed to foster stability on the ground, including on the administrative boundary lines and in the conflict areas. Other items on the agenda include security, unfettered access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia for international monitors and human rights groups, and the return of internally displaced persons and refugees. On November 23, 2010, in addition to the pledge already made in the August 2008 cease-fire, President Saakashvili pledged a unilateral non-use of force at the EU Parliament.

The de facto authorities in Abkhazia continue to restrict the rights, primarily of ethnic Georgians, to vote, participate in the political process, and exercise basic rights such as property ownership, business registration, and travel. Ethnic Georgians also have suffered harassment by Abkhaz and Russian forces, forced conscription in the Abkhaz "army," a lack of funding for basic infrastructure maintenance, and limitations on Georgian-language instruction in the Gali district schools.

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.

On 21 September 2012 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia stated that "In recent weeks, the armed forces of the Russian Federation have been concentrating manpower and offensive equipment in the areas adjacent to the administrative borders of Georgia's occupied provinces, which increases the risk of dangerous provocation. This was confirmed today, as a helicopter of the Russian military made landing at in the area controlled by the central Georgian authorities, in proximity to Tskhinvali region. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs voices stark protest in relation to this incident and calls on the Russian Federation to desist from amassing manpower and military assets in the occupied regions. As the Ministry has stated earlier, the large-scale military maneuvers of the Russian Armed Forces "Kavkaz-2012" have been purposefully rescheduled to coincide with the pre-election period in Georgia. Our concerns for subsequent risks and provocations have also proven valid."

The EU Monitoring Mission was intensively engaged in monitoring and assessing these reports with the deployment of extra patrols and checked the situation with the relevant authorities. The Mission had not observed any evidence to support these claims. However, EUMM has further increased its patrolling to actively monitor the situation on the ground. The EUMM at the same time observed a build-up of Russian Federation armed personnel along the South Ossetian Administrative Boundary Line. The Mission raised its concerns about this activity with the relevant Russian command structures.

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Page last modified: 30-09-2012 18:37:13 ZULU