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Posted by on Aug 26, 2008 in Places, War | 7 comments

Russia Recognizes Independence of Georgian Separatists

Well, anyone who has been paying attention knew this was coming.

President Dmitry Medvedev has declared that Russia formally recognises the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The move follows a vote in both houses of parliament on Monday, which called on Moscow to recognise the regions.

The move, in defiance of a specific plea from the US president, provoked a wave of protest from Western countries. (BBC News1)

Doubtless the western leaders will be mollified to know that he found this “no easy choice.” (BBC News1)

…or not. Condi found it “regrettable.”(BBC News).  I’m guessing she’ll have a lot more to say quite soon.

Meanwhile, the people of the separatist enclaves took to the streets, celebrating with a few rounds of gunfire.

Residents in Abkhazia took to the streets to celebrate the news, firing into the air, Reuters reports, and in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali there were scenes of jubilation.

“We feel happy. We all have tears in our eyes. We feel pride for our people,” said Aida Gabaz, a 38-year-old lawyer in the Abkhaz capital Sukhumi.(BBC News1)

Meanwhile the Georgians, frightened by the guns, are rapidly leaving. (BBC News1)

Since unifying Georgia was Saakashvili’s raison d’etre, this is only going to stir things up further. Though the Russians have mainly pulled out of Georgia, ” it is maintaining a presence both within the two rebel regions and in buffer zones imposed round their boundaries.” (BBC News1)

Meanwhile, they are still counting up the human cost of Saakashvili’s attack on South Ossetia and Russia’s violent and disproportionate response.

The Russians and South Ossetians don’t plan to let Georgians back into South Ossetia any time soon. (BBC News2)

The people who will suffer most in the long term from this conflict are more than 20,000 ethnic Georgians from a mosaic of villages in South Ossetia who have now mostly fled…

Reporters who have passed through many of the villages in the last few days say they are now in ruins.(BBC News2)

And things don’t look so good for 240,000 ethnic Georgians who were forced out of the other separatist enclave, Abkhazia, in the 1992-3 conflict.

Their hopes of return were predicated on a successful peace agreement which now looks more elusive than ever.

Around 50,000 Georgians live in Abkhazia’s southernmost Gali district under an Abkhaz administration.

So far they have managed to stay in their homes, but their future is also more precarious. (BBC News2)

In the meantime, Russia is doing its best to keep out international peacekeepers or international monitors.

Faced with a tightening Russian grip, Western leaders can only fall back on expressing support for Georgia’s right to these territories.

US President George W Bush made this commitment on 16 August, saying: “Georgia’s borders should command the same respect as every other nation’s. There’s no room for debate on this matter.”

This becomes a moral argument, with the Russians answering that after supporting Kosovo’s unilateral secession from Serbia, the West is guilty of “double standards” in the Caucasus(BBC News2)

The two sides continue to argue over who started it. (BBCNews3). As the article notes, the truth may get lost in the process.

[H]uman rights groups and conflict resolution specialists argue that a full investigation into the circumstances and events of the fighting in South Ossetia are an urgent priority.

In a region where ancient feuds shape current events, half-truths from one conflict all too quickly become the myths that fuel the next cycle of violence (BBCNews3).

The above-referenced article contains a pretty good recap of the events leading up to the conflict. But of course the history of separatism in South Ossetia and Abkhazia goes back much further.


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