Occupied Tskhinvali region: history, causes of conflict, processes of settlement and occupation. (Part IV)
31/01/2011 14:24
Gocha Gvaramia
Experts' Club

Preparation for the occupation and the occupation


We would like to complete the topic of occupation of the Tskhinvali region – brief review of history, instigation of the conflict, its escalation and the peace process outlined in the previous three parts – with a description of immediate events that preceded the Russian military aggression in 2008 and undisguised occupation of historical parts of Georgia - Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region.

As Georgia began its successful movement towards integration into NATO, Russia started to take drastic aggressive steps against our country. It was becoming increasingly obvious that Russia was preparing for military adventure. But at the beginning it was unclear what direction it would choose - Abkhazia or Tskhinvali region.

March 6, 2008 - Russia withdrew from the CIS agreement, which limited economic and military cooperation with Abkhazia. Simultaneously about a thousand military personnel of landing troops of Russia with regular attack equipment were introduced in Abkhazia between which was mainly deployed in the Ochamchire district and around Tkvarcheli.

April 2-4, 2008 - After Ukraine and Georgia were denied the Action Plan for NATO membership at the NATO summit in Bucharest, degree of aggressiveness of Russia towards Georgia as well as pressure on both the conflict in the region increased dramatically.

According to the order of April 16, 2008 of Vladimir Putin who then was still a president, the Russian government was charged to establish direct relations with the separatist leadership of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In the same period works for rehabilitation of the railway segment Gagra-Sukhumi-Ochamchire were taking place in Abkhazia. They were being carried out by military engineering forces of the Ministry of Defence of Russia, which was subsequently used to transport heavy equipment in the direction of Tkvarcheli.

By this time additional forces had already been deployed into the Tskhinvali region, the majority of which was concentrated in Java. Kidnapping of people by separatists became increasingly intense in the region and armed provocation were organized at checkpoints of the Georgian peacekeeping units - all this was happening against the backdrop of aggressive and sharp statements of the Russian authorities and the separatist regimes.

April 2008 - Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that "Russia will do everything to prevent the entry of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO."

April 20, 2008 - Russian fighter shot down a Georgian drone in the Enguri area in the conflict zone. Despite the clear evidence, Russia categorically denied any involvement in the incident and maintained that the drone was downed by the armed forces of the Abkhazian side.

June 23, 2008 - Separatists expelled the delegation of EU ambassadors, who were visiting the region, from Tskhinvali on the grounds that it had previously visited the administration of Sanakoev in Kurta.

June-July 2008 - During this period, the number of armed provocations in the conflict zone of Tskhinvali region had increased dramatically: shots were fired at Georgian villages, roads were mined and blocked, civilians were abducted, local civilian residents were blown up on mines, etc.

July 3, 2008 - During the explosion, which occurred under uncertain circumstances in the morning in the village Dmenisi, "chief" of local South Ossetian police was killed. On the same day the incident was followed by the terrorist attack on head of the provisional administration D. Sanakoev, during which several policemen were injured.

July 8, 2008 - Shortly before the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Georgia four Russian fighter jets violated Georgian airspace over the Tskhinvali region. On July 10th Russia admitted its involvement in this, but announced that by that it stopped "military aggression" of Georgia and "cooled down hotheads in Tbilisi".

July 15, 2008 - large-scale exercises of the Russian armed forces began in the North Caucasus with participation of military units and other Russian formations deployed in the North Caucasus. These units subsequently participated in military aggression against Georgia and its occupation (among them the 58th Army and the Pskov Airborne Division).

17-18 July 2008 - German Foreign Minister Steinmeier presented a plan of settlement of the Abkhazian conflict, which had three phases and which was rejected by the Sukhumi separatist leadership.

August 1, 2008 – As a result of a mine explosion on the bypass road of Eredvi-Keiti five Georgian policemen were injured.

August 1-2, 2008 - Separatists bombed Georgian villages adjacent to Tskhinvali with the use of heavy artillery. This fact was confirmed by Russian peacekeeping forces. Six civilians and one policeman were wounded from the Georgian side.

In the same period, mass attacks on Georgian websites were started. Blocking of Georgia's information space was taking place with participation of employees of special departments created at the Russian security services. Especially affected were Russian-language Georgian websites and bloggers that were very popular in Russia, and, of course, state websites.

August 3, 2008 - Separatists began to evacuate women and children from Tskhinvali and Ossetian villages. At the same time, mobilization of the Russian armed forces and the Cossacks, as well as other armed groups started in the North Caucasus. Russian media began intensive misinformation and militarist propaganda.

It was obvious that Russia was preparing for large-scale military aggression. In this situation, the Georgian government made attempts to maximally inform the international community in connection with plans of military aggression by Russia, but no one believed that in the XXI century a country that acted as a guarantor of peace, facilitator and participant in the negotiation process on the peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Tskhinvali region, will appear before the world as a military aggressor and occupant.

August 6, 2008 - Separatists, hidden behind checkpoints of the Russian peacekeeping forces, opened heavy fire on Georgian villages. Two Georgians from peacekeeping battalions were wounded. The Georgian leadership offered the separatists to start direct talks.

August 7, 2008
- The separatists once again subjected Georgian villages to bombing. The Georgian State Minister for Reintegration visited Tskhinvali to hold direct talks with separatist leaders in order to avoid escalation of the conflict but the separatist leaders refused to meet with him.

On the night of 7 to 8 August 2008, when the Georgian side still led military action of a defensive nature, Georgian president declared a unilateral cease-fire and offered to start negotiations. But the separatists did not accept the offer and opened heavy fire on Georgian villages from all types of weapons that were available to them. After that, the Georgian side was forced to turn to adequate measures and made a relevant decision to conduct mandatory military operation to restore constitutional order in the region.

The Russian Federation responded to introduction of armed, mainly police, forces into the region by the Georgian authorities that was done to protect the population with direct military aggression.

During 8-10 August 2008, Russia brought in additional thousand units of military equipment in Georgia and tens of thousands of manpower through the Roki Tunnel, and from Abkhazia and by landing ships of the Black Sea Fleet. They were followed by an even greater number of mercenaries and "volunteers" from the North Caucasus.

After heavy fighting, the Georgian leadership, because of the sheer inequality of forces withdrew from the conflict regions, although the Russian armed forces have not only carried out the occupation of the conflict regions, but also significant areas of Shida Kartli and Samegrelo. They occupied Gori, Kareli, Khashuri, Zugdidi, Senaki and Poti and destroyed communications linking western and eastern Georgia.

Simultaneously, military facilities and civil infrastructure were being bombed and destroyed (also with use of prohibited weapons - cluster bombs and ballistic tactical missiles). Housing blocks were also bombed, causing casualties among civilians. Regular military units of Russia and the separatist armed formations were carrying out ethnic cleansing in the Tskhinvali region. They killed dozens of Georgians and completely expelled the Georgian population from the Great and Small Liakhvi gorges, Frone gorge, as well as villages of Kodori Gorge, robbed and stole their belongings and completely burned and destroyed their homes.

Russian helicopters set fire to Borjomi and Ateni forests. Gangs of volunteers of Ossetian and other nationalities that operated together with the Russian army, kidnapped and murdered Georgian population of villages surrounding Tskhinvali, of settlements located outside the zone of conflict and of Gori. Group executions, rape, public murder with extreme cruelty, massive human rights violations were taking place there. All this was happening in front of the official armed troops of regular military units of Russia, with their complicity and participation.

At meetings of the UN Security Council in connection with Russian aggression that were convened at the request of Georgia, Russia took advantage of its right to veto and the Security Council failed to adopt any resolution.

On 12-14 August 2008 a ceasefire agreement that was brokered by the French President was signed between Russia and Georgia. But Russia violated clauses of this Agreement and did not withdraw its troops from the Georgian territory. On August 25th, 2008 the Russian State Duma adopted a resolution that offered the Russian President to recognize independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

August 26, 2008 - the Russian president made a statement recognizing independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and instructed the Foreign Ministry to establish diplomatic relations with them.

In response, the Georgian government abolished all treaties conferring peacekeeping status on the Russian Armed Forces, declared about its withdrawal from the CIS and on September 2nd it broke off diplomatic relations with Russia.

According to the law on occupied territories that was adopted by the Parliament of Georgia on October 23rd, 2009, Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region were declared territories occupied by the Russian Federation.

The Georgian government, although 2 years later, but still managed to establish the term "occupation" at the international level. It is reflected in official statements of the UN, Council of Europe, NATO and other international organizations.

The article used official documents, the report of the Government of Georgia in connection with a full-scale aggression carried out by Russia against Georgia and public sources of information.

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