Location of Tskhinvali Region(Former Autonomous District of South Ossetia) (purple) within Georgia.
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The Georgian–Ossetian conflict is an ethno-political conflict over Georgia's former autonomous region of South Ossetia, which evolved in 1989 and developed into a war. Despite a declared ceasefire and numerous peace efforts, the conflict remained unresolved. In August 2008, military tensions and clashes between Georgia and South Ossetian separatists erupted into the Russo-Georgian War.
The conflict between Georgian and Ossetians dates back until at least 1918. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Georgia declared independence (26 May 1918) under Mensheviks, while the Bolsheviks took control of Russia. In June 1920, a Russian-sponsored Ossetian force attacked the Georgian Army and People's Guard. The Georgians responded vigorously and defeated the insurgents, with several Ossetian villages being burnt down and 20,000 Ossetians displaced in Soviet Russia.Eight months later, the Red Army successfully invaded Georgia.
The Soviet Georgian government, established after the Red Army invasion of Georgia in 1921, created an autonomous administrative unit for Transcaucasian Ossetians in April 1922 under pressure from Kavburo (the Caucasian Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party), called the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast.
In the late 1980s, Ossetian nationalistic organization, Adamon Nikhas (Voice of the People) was created.On 10 November 1989, the South Ossetian Supreme Soviet asked the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic for the status of the region to be upgraded to that of autonomous republic. However this application was rejected on 16 November and the Georgians besieged Tskhinvali on 23 November 1989.
South Ossetia declared about its state sovereignty on 20 September 1990. In October 1990, the Georgian parliamentary elections were boycotted by South Ossetia, which held elections to its own parliament in December of the same year.On 11 December 1990, the Georgian Parliament passed a bill that effectively abolished South Ossetia's autonomous status. Russia intervened and a state of emergency was declared in South Ossetia.
On 4 May 1991, the South Ossetian Parliament declared its intention to separate from Georgia and to unite with the North Ossetia, which was located within the borders of the Russian Federation.
Amidst rising ethnic tensions, war broke out when Georgian forces entered the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali.More than 2,000 people are believed to have been killed in the war. The separatists were helped by former Soviet military units, who by now had come under Russian command. Approximately 100,000 Ossetians fled Georgia proper and South Ossetia, while 23,000 Georgians left South Ossetia. A ceasefire agreement (the Sochi Agreement) was reached on 24 June 1992. While it ended the war, it did not deal with the status of South Ossetia. A Joint Control Commission for Georgian–Ossetian Conflict Resolution and peacekeeping force, composed of Russian, Georgian and Ossetian troops, was set up. The Ossetian de facto government controlled the region independently from Tbilisi. The JPKF's activities were mainly concentrated in the Conflict Zone, which included an area within a 15-km radius from Tskhinvali.
The separatists retained control over the districts of Tskhinvali, Java, Znauri and parts of Akhalgori. The Tbilisi central government controlled the rest of Akhalgori and the Georgian villages in the Tskhinvali district.
In 1996, the Ergneti market was opened and soon became the place where Georgians and South Ossetians traded. In 1996, Lyudvig Chibirov won the presidential elections. A memorandum on "Measures for providing security and confidence building" was signed in Moscow on 16 May 1996, which was regarded as the first step towards a rapprochement between Georgia and the separatists of South Ossetia. This was followed up by several meetings between President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze, and de facto President of South Ossetia Chibirov. They met in Vladikavkaz in 1996, in Java in 1997, and in Borjomi in 1998. These resulted in some positive developments as the talks about IDP return, economic development, a political solution to the issues, and the protection of the population in the conflict zone.
There was no military confrontation for twelve years. While the peace process was frozen, Ossetians and Georgians engaged in lively exchanges and uncontrolled trade.The unresolved conflict encouraged development of such illegal activities as kidnapping, drug-trafficking and arms trading. Up to the end of 2003, a number of law enforcement officials from South Ossetia and Georgia proper allegedly were participating in criminal economic activities. Authorities on both sides reportedly co-operated to profit from illegal trade, as did Russian customs and peacekeeping troops.
When Mikheil Saakashvili was elected President in 2004, he made his goal to return the breakaway regions of Georgia under central control.
Following the success in Adjara, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government turned their attention to South Ossetia.
In June, the Georgians shut down the Ergneti market, which was a major trading point for contraband goods. This made the situation more tense.Georgia's regional administration began to restore the alternative road to Didi Liakhvi.
On 7 July, Georgian peacekeepers intercepted a Russian convoy.The next day around 50 Georgian peacekeepers were disarmed and detained by the South Ossetian militias. The Georgian peacekeepers captured were all released on 9 July, with three exceptions. On 11 July 2004, Georgian president Saakashvili said the "crisis in South Ossetia is not a problem between Georgians and Ossetians. This is a problem between Georgia and Russia."
On 5 August 2004, Russian State Duma issued an official statement concerning the aggravation of situation around South Ossetia and Abkhazia in connection "with political actions of Georgian authorities". The statement warned that Russia could get involved in the conflict and would take "appropriate actions in case the lives of Russian citizens were jeopardized".Hundreds of Russian volunteers, mainly Cossacks, stated their readiness to protect the people of South Ossetia should the conflict escalate any further.
The tensions increased on the night of 10–11 August, when Georgian and South Ossetian villages in the area north of Tskhinvali, came under fire and civilians were injured. Georgian and South Ossetian members of the JPFK are said to have been involved in the exchange of fire. On 13 August, Georgian Prime Minister Zhvania and de facto South Ossetian President Kokoev agreed on a ceasefire, which was breached multiple times by both sides. During the tensions in July and August, 17 Georgians and 5 Ossetians were killed. In emergency sessions of the JCC on 17 and 18 August in Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, the sides debated complex ceasefire proposals and demilitarization projects. At the same time, they expected fighting to resume and used the truce to improve their military positions and strengthen defences. A ceasefire agreement was reached on 19 August.
On 24 August, in an interview broadcast by Imedi television, the chairman of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee, Givi Targamadze said that Russian military was prepared to launch a strike into Georgian territory, but the raid was preempted by Saakashvili's decision on 19 August to withdraw Georgian forces from strategic positions in South Ossetia. Targamadze said the Georgian government possessed secretly recorded video of Russian military preparations near the Georgian border.
At a high level meeting between Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity on 5 November in Sochi, Russia, an agreement on demilitarization of the conflict zone was reached. Some exchange of fire continued in the zone of conflict after the ceasefire, apparently primarily initiated by the Ossetian side.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili presented a new vision for resolving the South Ossetian conflict at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) session in Strasbourg, on 26 January 2005. His proposal included broader forms of autonomy, including a constitutional guarantee of free and directly elected local self-governance. Saakashvili stated that South Ossetia's parliament would have control over issues such as culture, education, social policy, economic policy, public order, organization of local self-governance and environmental protection. At the same time South Ossetia would have a voice in the national structures of government as well, with a constitutional guarantee of representation in the judicial and constitutional-judicial branches and in the Parliament. Georgia would commit to improving the economic and social conditions of South Ossetian inhabitants. Saakashvili proposed a transitional 3-year conflict resolution period, during which time mixed Georgian and Ossetian police forces, under the guidance and auspices of international organizations, would be established and Ossetian forces would gradually be integrated into a united Georgian Armed Force. Saakashvili also said that the international community should play a more significant and visible role in solving this conflict.
Zurab Zhvania's premature death in February 2005 was a setback in the conflict resolution.
On 3 September 2006, the South Ossetian forces opened fire at a Georgian MI-8 helicopter carrying Defense Minister of Georgia, Irakli Okruashvili, when it flew over the separatist-held territory. It landed safely in Georgian government-controlled territory. Although the South Ossetian authorities reported that the Georgian helicopter had entered their air space and fired shots at the ground, the Georgians denied the charge that shots had come from the helicopter. The South Ossetian officials confirmed their troops were responsible for the attack, but rejected the claim that the aircraft was targeted because of prior intelligence that Okruashvili was on board. "We are not interested in having either Okruashvili or [Georgian president Mikheil] Saakashvili killed, as they are helping us to achieve independence," declared South Ossetian interior minister Mikhail Mindzayev.
On 31 October 2006, the South Ossetian police reported a skirmish in the Java, Georgia district in which they killed a group of 4 men.The weapons seized from the group included assault rifles, guns, grenade launchers, grenades and explosive devices. Other items found in the militants' possession included extremist Wahhabi literature, maps of Java district and sets of Russian peacekeeping uniforms. Those findings led the South Ossetian authorities to conclude that the militants were planning to carry out acts of sabotage and terrorist attacks. The South Ossetian authorities identified the men as Chechens from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. South Ossetia accused Georgia of hiring the Chechen mercenaries to carry out terrorist attacks in the region.
The Georgian side flatly denied its involvement in the incident. Shota Khizanishvili, a spokesperson for the Georgian Interior Ministry, supposed that the incident could be connected to "internal conflicts in South Ossetia".
On 12 November 2006, presidential election and referendum were held in South Ossetia. The separatist-controlled part of the region re-elected Eduard Kokoity as de facto president and voted for independence from Georgia.In the areas under Georgia's control, the Ossetian opposition organized rival polls electing Dmitry Sanakoyev, as an alternative president and voted for negotiations with Georgia on a future federal agreement. The pro-Georgian government was never able to draw significant support away from the separatist authorities.
On 29 March 2007, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned in a statement that Tbilisi's plan to set up a temporary administrative unit in the part of breakaway South Ossetia would "shatter an already fragile situation".On 10 May 2007, Dmitry Sanakoyev was appointed as head of the Provisional Administrative Entity of South Ossetia by the President of Georgia. The next day, Sanakoyev addressed the Parliament of Georgia, outlining his vision of the conflict resolution plan. In response the South Ossetian separatists enforced mass blockade of Georgian villages in the conflict zone and Eduard Kokoity demanded the withdrawal of Georgian special-task troops and South Ossetia's interim government headed by "alternative president" Dmitri Sanakoev.
On 24 July 2007, Tbilisi held its first state commission to define South Ossetia's status within the Georgian state. Chaired by Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, the commission included Georgian parliamentarians, representatives of the Ossetian community in Georgia and representatives of several Georgian human rights organisations. The talks were held with Sanakoev's administration.
Sanakoyev's supporters launched a campaign against Kokoity named "Kokoity Fandarast" ("Goodbye Kokoity" in Ossetian language).
On 6 August 2007, a missile landed, but did not explode, in the village of Tsitelubani, some 65 km (40 mi) from Tbilisi. Georgian officials said that Russian attack aircraft, an SU-24 Fencer, violated its airspace and fired Raduga Kh-58 anti-radar tactically guided missile. Russia denied the allegations. The group of defense specialists from the United States, Sweden, Latvia, and Lithuania stated late on 15 August that the plane flew from Russian to Georgian airspace and back three times.
Events prior to August 2008 are described in 2008 Russo-Georgian diplomatic crisis.
Tensions between Georgia and Russia began escalating in April 2008.South Ossetian separatists committed the first act of violence when they blew up a Georgian military vehicle on 1 August 2008. The explosion wounded five Georgian peacekeepers. In response, Georgian snipers assaulted the South Ossetian militiamen during the evening. Ossetian separatists began shelling Georgian villages on 1 August, with a sporadic response from Georgian peacekeepers and other troops in the region. Serious incidents happened in the following week after Ossetian attacks on Georgian villages and positions in South Ossetia.
At around 19:00 on 7 August 2008, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili announced a unilateral ceasefire and no-response order.However, Ossetian separatists intensified their attacks on Georgian villages located in the South Ossetian conflict zone. Georgian troops returned fire and advanced towards the capital of the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, during the night of 8 August. According to Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer, the Ossetians were intentionally provoking the Georgians, so Russia would use the Georgian response as a pretext for premeditated military invasion. According to Georgian intelligence, and several Russian media reports, parts of the regular (non-peacekeeping) Russian Army had already moved to South Ossetian territory through the Roki Tunnel before the Georgian military operation.
The centre of Tskhinvali was reached by 1,500 men of the Georgian ground forces by 10:00 on 8 August.One Georgian diplomat told Kommersant on the same day that by taking control of Tskhinvali they wanted to demonstrate that Georgia wouldn't tolerate killing of Georgian citizens. Russia accused Georgia of aggression against South Ossetia, and launched a large-scale invasion of Georgia under the guise of peacekeeping operation on 8 August. Russian military captured Tskhinvali in five days and expelled Georgian forces. Russia also launched airstrikes against military infrastructure in Georgia. Abkhaz forces opened a second front by attacking the Kodori Gorge, held by Georgia. Russian forces occupied the Georgian cities of Zugdidi, Senaki, Poti, and Gori (the last one after the ceasefire was negotiated). Russian Black Sea Fleet blockaded the Georgian coast.
Both during and after the war, South Ossetian forces and irregular militia conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Georgians in South Ossetia,with Georgian villages around Tskhinvali being destroyed after the war had ended. The war displaced 192,000 people, and while many were able to return to their homes after the war, a year later around 30,000 ethnic Georgians remained displaced. In an interview published in Kommersant, South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity said he would not allow Georgians to return.
President of France Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated a ceasefire agreement on 12 August 2008.On 17 August, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russian forces would begin to pull out of Georgia the following day. Russian forces withdrew from the buffer zones adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia on 8 October and control over them was transferred to the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia.
On 26 August 2008, Russia officially recognized both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.
On 4 August 2009, it was reported that tensions were rising before the war's first anniversary on 8 August. The European Union urged "all sides to refrain from any statement or action that may lead to increased tensions at this particularly sensitive time."
In 2015, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested authorisation from the Court's Judges to begin an investigation into the alleged war crimes in relation to the conflict. This case includes alleged crimes committed as part of a campaign to expel ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia as well as attacks on peacekeepers by Georgian and South Ossetian forces.
Russian and Ossetian troops expanded the border into Georgia, evicting ethnic Georgians from their homes.
South Ossetia, officially the Republic of South Ossetia – the Free State of Alania, or the Tskhinvali Region, is a de facto sovereign state and disputed territory in the South Caucasus recognised by most countries as part of Georgia. It has a population of 53,000 people who live in an area of 3,900 km2, south of the Russian Caucasus, with 30,000 living in Tskhinvali. The separatist polity, Republic of South Ossetia, is recognized as a state by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, and Syria. While Georgia lacks control over South Ossetia, the Georgian government and most members of the United Nations consider the territory part of Georgia, whose constitution designates the area as "the former autonomous district of South Ossetia", in reference to the former Soviet autonomous oblast disbanded in 1990.
Java is a town of approximately 1,500 people in Georgia. According to Georgia's current official administrative division, Java is a main town of Java district in the north of Shida Kartli region. According to the South Ossetian side Dzau is an administrative center of Dzau district. The town is situated on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus, within the Greater Liakhvi Gorge, 1,040 m (3,412 ft) above sea level.
Eduard Dzhabeyevich Kokoyty is the former President of partially recognized state South Ossetia. His term in office lasted just under ten years, beginning December 2001 and ending December 2011.
Tskhinvali is a city in the de facto independent region of South Ossetia, Georgia Transcaucasia and the capital of the de facto independent Republic of South Ossetia and the former Soviet Georgian South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast. The city had been administratively divided into the region (mkhare) of Shida Kartli by Georgia after the revocation of the autonomous oblast. It's located on the Great Liakhvi River approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) northwest of the Georgian capital Tbilisi.
South Ossetia, a mostly unrecognized republic in the South Caucasus, formerly the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic with its capital in Tskhinvali, held a referendum on independence on November 12, 2006.
A presidential election in South Ossetia, an unrecognized republic within Georgia, was held on November 12, 2006, coinciding with the South Ossetian independence referendum. Incumbent Eduard Kokoity was seeking a second full five-year term. He was re-elected with more than 98.1%. According to the de facto authorities, the election was monitored by a team of 34 international observers from Germany, Austria, Poland, Sweden and other countries at 78 polling stations. The Ukrainian delegation was led by Nataliya Vitrenko of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine. The election process was criticised by local civic society and the results were likely to be inflated.
Dmitry Ivanovich Sanakoyev is a South Ossetian and Georgian politician, a former official in the secessionist government of South Ossetia and currently Head of the Provisional Administration of South Ossetia, a rival entity established in 2007 in the Georgian-controlled territories of this separatist region.
The 1991–1992 South Ossetian War was fought as part of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict between Georgian government forces and ethnic Georgian militia on one side and the forces of South Ossetia and North Ossetian volunteers who wanted South Ossetia to secede from Georgia and become an independent state on the other. The war ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire, signed on 24 June 1992, which established a joint peacekeeping force and left South Ossetia divided between the rival authorities.
Joint Control Commission for Georgian–Ossetian Conflict Resolution (JCC) is a peacekeeping organization, operating in South Ossetia and overseeing the joint peacekeeping forces in the region.
The Provisional Administration of South Ossetia is an administrative body that Georgia regards as the legal government of South Ossetia. The administration was set up by the Georgian government as a transitional measure leading to the settlement of South Ossetia's status. As of 2007, Georgia is proposing the status of autonomous republic within the Georgian state. The area mainly lies within the Shida Kartli region.
An international diplomatic crisis between Georgia and Russia began in 2008, when Russia announced that it would no longer participate in the Commonwealth of Independent States economic sanctions imposed on Abkhazia in 1996 and established direct relations with the separatist authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The crisis was linked to the push for Georgia to receive a NATO Membership Action Plan and, indirectly, the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo.
The Russo-Georgian War was a war between Georgia, Russia and the Russian-backed self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The war took place in August 2008 following a period of worsening relations between Russia and Georgia, both formerly constituent republics of the Soviet Union. The fighting took place in the strategically important Transcaucasia region. It was regarded as the first European war of the 21st century.
The Battle of Tskhinvali was a fight for the city of Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia. It was the only major battle in the Russo-Georgian War. Georgian ground troops entered the city on early 8 August 2008, after an artillery assault. Their advance was stopped by South Ossetian militia and members of the Russian peacekeeping force stationed in the city. Russian combat troops began entering South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel. After being initially forced to withdraw, the Georgian troops made several attempts to retake the city. Due to the difficult logistics of the terrain, the arrival of Russian reinforcements was slow. After fierce fighting, Georgian troops were finally forced to withdraw from the city on the evening of 10 August. On 11 August, all Georgian troops left South Ossetia. Parts of Tskhinvali were devastated in the three-day fighting.
The Russo-Georgian War broke out in August 2008 and involved Georgia, Russian Federation, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
This article describes the background of the Russo-Georgian War.
Russia—South Ossetia relations refers to the bilateral relationship between Russia and the Georgian breakaway Tskhinvali Region, a disputed region in the South Caucasus, located on the territory of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast within the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Ryan Grist is a former British Army Captain who served as a monitor of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Georgia during the breakout of the 2008 South Ossetia war. Grist, who holds a PhD in International Conflict Analysis, came to public attention shortly after the war, when he placed some of the blame for the conflict on the Georgian side. He has maintained that the Georgian authorities at the highest level were in part responsible for the outbreak of widespread fighting. However, he has also said that his comments had been over-interpreted and that "I have never said there was no provocation by the South Ossetians."
Both sides of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia blamed each other for starting the war.
Ethnic cleansing of Georgians in South Ossetia was a mass expulsion of ethnic Georgians conducted in South Ossetia and other territories occupied by Russian and South Ossetian forces, which happened during and after the 2008 Russia–Georgia war.
South Ossetia is an autonomous region in Georgia, approximately 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level on the slopes of the Greater Caucasus. Although it declared independence in 2008, only a few countries acknowledge it. The region is inhabited by Ossetians, an Iranian ethnic group. According to Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and the microstates of Tuvalu and Nauru, it is one of the world's newest independent states. All other states and international organisations consider South Ossetia an autonomous region of Georgia, functioning as a de facto state for twenty years after declaring independence and conducting a successful armed rebellion. Its Georgian inhabitants have been displaced. South Ossetia has been a source of tension for a number of years, with Georgia and Russia's political differences impeding peaceful independence and breeding a turbulent series of events which undermine the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.