Russian Policy in Abkhazia and a Role of the UN in the Conflict Resolution Process
17/08/2009 12:29
Gocha Gvaramia
The Club of Experts

The first ceasefire agreement since the beginning of the conflict was officially signed on the 3rd of September 1992 in Moscow. It should be noted that the only sides to sign all the official documents were Georgia and Russia. As for the Abkhazian representation, which included separatists as well as representatives of the legitimate government, were there only to accept terms of the reached agreement. That means that even from the beginning Georgia and Russia were recognized as the sides of the conflict.

In the preamble of that Moscow agreement of the 3rd of September 1992 it is especially underlined that both the Russian President and the Chairman of the State Committee of the Republic of Georgia agree that it is inadmissible to violate territorial integrity of states and inviolability of the internationally recognized borders in any way. As we see at the beginning the Russian Federation and the separatist government did not even doubt the Georgian territorial integrity and its internationally recognized borders.

But today what we are confronted with a different situation - if before Russia supported the separatist regimes unofficially its current position indicates that it is not only breaking the UN resolutions and the agreements reached earlier but is also ignoring the International norms and is pushing for its own forceful methods to be accepted in the world.

Analyzing the agreement of the September the 3rd, 1992 the following main issues can be noted:

1. The territorial integrity of Georgia is indisputable. It states that “it is inadmissible to break the principles of the territorial integrity of the state and its internationally recognized borders in any way …”
2. The agreement was reached “ about a ceasefire and against the use of force between the sides”;
3. A commission was created by the Georgian government in order to ensure the ceasefire, to stop the intrusion of the illegal armed forces and groups in Abkhazia and to oust already existed groups. This commission included Russian and Abkhazian representatives.
4. The Georgian military forces had a responsibility to protect the railway and other specific targets.

Exactly one month later after reaching the Moscow Agreement of the 3rd of September, 1992, illegal armed forces of the Abkhazian separatist regime, Kazak groups, mercenaries from the North Caucasus and the Arab countries gained a full control of Gagra area. The result of this military operation was the first ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population in Abkhazia and the official recording of refugees. As we see The Russian side and representatives of the Abkhazian separatist regime violated all the clauses of the agreement that was designed to provide the conflict resolution. After the fall of Gagra in 1992 the chairman of the UN Security Council made a special announcement on the 8th of October about “a situation in Georgia”, in which he called for the sides to cease the armed confrontation and follow the Moscow Agreement which itself “confirms inviolability of the Georgian territorial integrity, implies ceasing of all military operations and provides the basis for the full political resolution of the conflict”. It should be noted that as the above announcement was made by the UN Security Council and that means that Russia fully agreed to the wording of the announcement.

Despite all that in the aftermath of the Moscow Agreement and also other agreements based on the Moscow Agreement and the UN resolutions were continuously being broken by the Separatist Regime and the Russian side. The latter by supporting the separatists was fueling the conflict instead of resolving it.

Chronology of the Military Operations

The chronology of the military actions in Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 conflict clearly reflects all the violations of the Moscow Agreement by the Separatist Regime and the Russian side after its official signing.

• The 3rd - 5th October, 1992 – The armed forces of the Abkhazian Separatist Regime, Kazak groups, mercenaries from the North Caucasus and the Arab countries gained a full control of Gagra area. The result of this military action was the first ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population in Abkhazia.
• The 3rd November, 1992 - Groups of the North Caucasian and Arab mercenaries made an attempt to take strategic heights in the direction of Shroma-Akhalsheni (the northern surroundings of Sokhumi). The Georgians captured a Syrian citizen after this attack. Afterwards it was confirmed that he was a professional intelligence officer.
• The 5th of January, 1993 - The illegal armed forces of the Abkhazian Separatist regime attempted to break the frontline of Gumista.
• The 16th March, 1993 – The biggest attack took place in the direction of Gumista and Ochamchire. Also, investigative attacks were in place in the direction of Shroma-Akhalsheni. The forces participating in this wide operation included not only the Separatists but the North Caucasian and Arab mercenaries, armed groups from Trans-Dniester Region as well as The Russian Regular Army including parts of the Russian Paratrooper Division situated in Gudauta which was under a direct command of Pavel Grachev, then the Russian Defense Minister. The above-mentioned operation was the first which included the Russian Air Forces, planes of which attacked Sokhumi. Tens of houses were destroyed in different parts of Sokhumi with the result of casualties among the civilian population.
• July 1993 – The Separatist armed forces and the Russian Paratroopers attacked in the direction of Shroma-Akhalsheni and Ochamchire. It was the first time when the Russian Sea Marines were used. Despite big losses the Separatists still managed to take strategic heights near Sokhumi which was the main objective of this military operation.
• The 16th of September, 1993 – The Separatists together with divisions of the Russian Regular Army , who were no longer hiding their involvement and were moving around with the Russian flags on their military vehicles, began a wide-spread operation in the direction of Sokhumi. As by this time the Georgian armed forces in Abkhazia were practically disarmed as a result of the Sochi Agreement of the 27th July, 1993, they were not able to defend Sokhumi. It is to be noted that during the period of the military operations in Abkhazia, Russia used every opportunity to provide a military assistance to the Separatists. They effectively used the UN and the International Red Cross Mission for those purposes. In particular, on the 19th January, 1993 the Russian Government issued a decree that obligated the Defense Ministry of Russia to take humanitarian cargo from Sochi to Tkvarcheli and to provide helicopters with distinctive signs of the International Red Cross to evacuate civilians from Tkvarcheli to Sochi. Naturally, no transport with such signs is subject to control of a carried cargo and that was used by the Russian military forces. They were taking ammunition and personnel along with the humanitarian cargo. Despite the fact that the Georgian side was reporting regularly to the UN representatives about such actions of the Russian militaries the UN failed to take relevant measures. Because such actions from the Russian side was tarnishing the reputation of the International Organizations. The UN observers should have paid more interest to the information provided by the Georgian side but they completely ignored it. Furthermore, when the Georgian police forces stopped a huge column that was heading towards Tkvarcheli in order to check its cargo they were categorically prohibited to do so by the UN Observers. After that, by August 1993 the provision of so called humanitarian cargoes via air and ground from Russia to Abkhazia, in particular to Tkvarcheli became more intense. As a result by September 1993 the separatists had a large amount of ammunition and personnel that they successfully used during their massive attack on Sokhumi. They blocked the railway and motorways connecting Sokhumi and Ochamchire and that in fact decided the fate of the military operation in favor of the separatists.

It should be noted that Moscow Agreement was not the only document that was being violated during this period by the active support of Russia.

During the military actions the UN Security Council issued various announcements and resolutions. They were:

• The Moscow Agreement of the 3rd September, 1993 S/24523.

• The 10th of September, 1992 - the special statement of the of the Chairman of the UN Security Council S/24542.

• The 7th of October, 1992 - the letter of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Chairman of the UN Security Council S/24633.

• The 8th of October, 1992 - the statement of the of the Chairman of the UN Security Council S/24637.

• The 10th of November, 1992 - the letter of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Chairman of the UN Security Council S/24794.
• The 28th of January, 1993 – the statement of the Secretary-General of the United Nations about “a situation in Abkhazia, the Republic of Georgia” S/25188.

• The 29th of January, 1993 – the statement of the of the Chairman of the UN Security Council S/25198.

• The 14th of March, 1993 - an agreement about a ceasefire and non-usage of the military forces against each other was reached through the Russian mediation (and on the 16th of September an attack on Sokhumi was carried out using the Russian Air Forces).
• The 5th of May, 1993 - the letter of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Chairman of the UN Security Council regarding the situation in Georgia S/25756.
• The 14th of May,1993 - an agreement about “non-renewal of the military actions and non-usage of the military forces against each other” was reached through the Russian mediation and it was reflected in the UN resolutions that followed. But the Separatist Regime violated the agreement with the active support of the Russians.
• The 1st of July, 1993 - the statement of the Secretary- General of the United Nations about a situation in Georgia S/26023.
• The 2nd of July, 1993 - the statement of the of the Chairman of the UN Security Council S/26032.
• The 7 th of July, 1993 - the statement of the Secretary- General of the United Nations about a situation in Abkhazia, the Republic of Georgia S/26023/ add.2.
• The 9th of July, 1993 - resolution of the UN Security Council 849 (1993)
• The 27th of July, 1993 – another agreement was reached in Sochi through the Russian mediation about a ceasefire in Abkhazia and mechanisms of control ensuring its implementation.
• The 6 th of August, 1993 – The speech of the Secretary- General of the United Nations about the UN Security Council Resolution 849 (1993) S/ 26250
• The 6th of August, 1993 – the resolution of the UN Security Council 854 (1993)
• The 24th of August, 1993 - the resolution of the UN Security Council 858 (1993)
• The 17th of September, 1993 - the statement of the Chairman of the UN Security Council regarding a renewal of the military operations for the purpose of taking Sokhumi S/26463. It is notable that in this statement the Chairman of the UN Security Council not only called for a ceasefire but demanded the return of the conflicting sides to the positions agreed by the Sochi Agreement of the 27th of July 1993. That had not happened.

Unfortunately, the support towards Georgia and a desire of a peaceful resolution of the conflict expressed by the International Organizations were not translated into actions. No sanctions for violating agreement and ignoring The UN Security Council resolutions consided by the International norms were taken towards the Separatists and especially Russia, which should have been a proper mediator.
To say more, the very first resolution of the UN Security Council after the end of the active phase of the conflict in Abkhazia – the military actions - is very interesting. It is to be said that the mentioned resolution was taken almost one month later after Ardzinba’s separatist regime with the support and immediate participation of Russia gained a full control of the Abkhazian territories. Despite the fact that there were relevant photo and video documents showing the participation of the Russian military forces along with the Separatists during the September attack and these documents were duly presented by the Georgian side to the International organizations, and among to the UN, the abovementioned resolution did not even mention Russia’s role in the Abkhazian tragedy.
As the above shows, the International Organizations, mostly the UN should share some responsibility for the ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population carried out by the armed forces of the Abkhazian Separatist regime, mercenaries from the North Caucasus and the Arab countries, as well as Kazaks and the Russian Regular Army, which left more than 350 000 of the entire 530 000 population of Abkhazia homeless and in an undignified existence. The military stage of the conflict ended in 1993 and the diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict began. But the problem still remains.
The 4th clause of the memorandum “the Geneva negotiations about a mutual understanding of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict” signed on the 30th of November, 1993 in Geneva openly states that: “The sides consider themselves obligated to urgently solve a problem of the refugees and displaced persons. The sides take an obligation to create conditions on the entire territory of Abkhazia for voluntary, safe and quick return of the refugees to places of their permanent residence. All their houses, land and assets will be given back to their rightful owners. The sides also express their hope that the UN high Commissioner in the matters of refugees will take an active part in the resolution of this problem”. Although this memorandum was produced with the direct participation of representatives of The UN and Russia and signed in their presence, willingness of the UN to take part in the process of the return of the refugees cannot be seen anywhere in the later resolutions of the UN Security Council. Those resolutions only mention the right of the refugees to return. In other words the UN not only failed to take any effective measures for safe return of the refugees but it did not even offer any recommendations.

Inadequate actions of the UN in response to the situation in Georgia should be specifically mentioned. Norms and instructions given to the UN representatives were not relevant to the existing reality. Ignorance of the Caucasian mentality and the ethno-psychological characteristics of local inhabitants and a lack of knowledge of the genesis of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, also non-consideration of both Russia’s treacherous plan and Russia’s , as an interested party , role in the conflict directly and negatively affected the UN activities.

The impression was that their efforts were mainly directed towards maintaining the status-quo between the opposing sides in the conflict region and supporting only the humanitarian and sometimes virtual programs.

So called “punishment operations” of the Separatist Regime towards local population of Gali region with the assistance of so called Collective Peace Forces acting under the aegis of the UN was a permanent fixture over the years and were happening in front of the UN Mission and that shows unsatisfactory activities of the UN mission. Also, it needs to be said that the abovementioned Peace Forces were completely filled with only the military contingent of the Russian Armed Forces and the most of them were military personnel from the North Caucasus and the South of Russia (Kazaks) and participants of the Abkhazian War. At the same time there was a distinct negative influence of the Separatist regime and the heads of the Peace Forces on the UN representatives, that was reflected in their irrelevant response towards crimes (murder, burglary, kidnapping, smuggling, drugs and arms trade, human trafficking) as well as violations of the human rights committed by the Abkhazian militia and the Russian military personnel. The UN representatives looked so powerless in front of the Russians that shooting down of the UN helicopter and kidnapping of the UN Observers were followed by no other reaction than a denouncement.

Also, no appropriate actions arose out of the events in May 1998 in Gali when the part of the local population having returned home at the cost of their lives were forced to leave again. When the population of Gali were persecuted and driven out of their homes, when hundreds of people were shot and burned alive in their houses, when several villages were burned to the ground and all this was happening in front of and most of the times with the direct involvement of the Russian Peace Forces. The UN representatives were only recording such violations. If the Georgian side insisted the best they could get were suggestions issued by the UN. Although multilateral investigative group that was supposed to react to and investigate crimes and other kind of violations of law in the conflict zone already existed, they did not carry out coordinated investigations in Gali region, apart from several isolated exceptions. Only the Abkhazian side and the UN representatives were carrying out investigations under control of the Russian Peace Forces. Deliberate ignoring of the Georgian participation in the investigative group served a purpose of not making real facts available for them. That was the reason why criminal acts taking place in the area in full view of the UN Mission and the Russian Peace Forces reached enormous proportions. Despite the continuous recording by the Georgian side of the negative part that Russia was playing in the conflict, the mandate of the Russian Peace Forces was being continuously extended due to the positive assessment of their role in the UN resolutions.

Unfortunately, today’s situation when Russia has no fear of punishment is mainly generated by a head-in-the-sand position of the International Organizations with regards to illegal acts committed by Russia.
From the above we can say that the UN observers in Abkhazia were under direct control of Russia.

Russia seeing that it can evade punishment during the whole process of the conflict resolution was protecting the Separatist regimes that itself had created and was intentionally violating the UN resolutions and agreements that were reached during different formats of the international negotiations. Furthermore, many formats of negotiations failed as a result of the Russian provocation. Having the UN mandate and the separatist regime to voice the Russian position, Russia was intentionally following a policy of prolonging the conflict resolution process. The UN Observer Mission fearing that a tougher position would result in a collapse of the negotiation process, which was again in Russia’s interests, was not duly firm. Even more, the fundamental issues for the conflict resolution, namely the Georgian territorial integrity and safe return of the refugees, still remain unsolved due to such attitude.

It should be mentioned that the International society only now , after Russia’s veto on the UN Security Council resolution , were convinced that the conflicts in Georgia had been provoked by Russia and the latter never intended to solve them peacefully even having all the necessary levers to do so. During these 17 years the breach of the various ceasefire agreements and the UN Security Council resolutions by the Abkhazian side was very actively and in many cases aggressively supported by the Russian military and political elites.

In addition, there are clauses in the UN Security Council resolutions where countries were called not to provide the Separatist Regime with any support other than humanitarian and especially not the military support. This resolution was signed by Russia but Russia never obeyed it and continued militarization of the region.

Russia’s policy to officially declare its support for the Georgian territorial integrity on one hand but in reality to aspire to full occupation of its territories (Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region) was passing unpunished.
All this created conditions for the August events of 2008 – when the world saw reality – when Russia carried out the full occupation of the conflict zones. Russia unilaterally recognized the separatist enclaves as independent countries, formed diplomatic ties with them, signed agreements about a military co-operation and carried out a full occupation of these regions and by that it violated all the International norms, agreements and the UN resolutions. Tens of reached but unrealized resolutions , a fact that no blame or punishment was taken by those UN representatives in Georgia who were responsible for realization and control of the above decisions, the prolonged and useless processes just for the sake of it and helplessness against a magic power of the Russian veto - all this is a rich soil for planting a seed of rightful doubt in the Georgian society, and especially in the part of it that were the immediate victims of such indifference and criminal negligence. Is this a case of a veiled cupidity? Were the population of the conflict area used for so-called “conflict business” which according to the officially published information is worth hundreds of billions of dollars? Should the UN implement new mechanisms in order to strengthen its fundamental acts and realize the resolutions that already exist?

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