Tuesday, August 12, 2008

War in Georgia - What is it about?



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Summary

South Ossetia and Abkhazia are territories within Georgia that each individually declared independence from Georgia and have each been acting in de facto independent capacities since the early 1990s. Neither state has been diplomatically recognised by any member of the United Nations.

On August 7, 2008, Georgia launched a military offensive to surround and capture the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali. Georgia claimed that South Ossetian separatists had shelled Georgian villages in violation of a ceasefire. South Ossetia denies provoking the conflict. Russia threatened to respond to defend South Ossetians against "a genocide by Georgian forces".

On August 8, 2008, Russia sent troops across the Georgian border to South Ossetia to stop Georgia’s massive offensive against its breakaway territory in which some 2,000 civilians (at least 1000) and about 20 Russian peacekeepers were killed. In five days of fighting the Russian forces recaptured the regional capital Tskhinvali, pushed back Georgian troops, and largely destroyed Georgia’s military infrastructure in airstrikes deep inside its territory. Georgia retreated from its offensive in South Ossetia, then claimed to be defending itself against "Russian aggression." Russia responded to the charge in the United Nations, saying Georgia had started the war by conducting a military operation against South Ossetia.

On the night of August 11, Russian paratroopers deployed in Abkhazia carried out raids deep inside Georgian territory to destroy military bases from where Georgia could send reinforcements to its troops sealed off in Abkhazia. The Russian military said they were not taking part in the Abkhaz assault on the Georgian forces. The separatist forces launched a military offensive on August 12 to oust Georgian troops out of a demilitarized zone on the border with Georgia.

Most international observers have called for a peaceful solution to the conflict. The European Union and the United States expressed a will to send a joint delegation to try to negotiate a cease-fire. Russia ruled out peace talks with Georgia until the latter withdrew from South Ossetia and signed a legally binding pact renouncing the use of force against South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

On August 12, 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that he had ordered an end to military operations in Georgia. Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze said that Russian jets were still targeting civilians.“The status quo in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is no longer possible,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Later on the same day (August 12), Russian president Dmitry Medvedev approved a six-point peace plan brokered by President-in-Office of the European Union, Nicolas Sarkozy, in Moscow.

Background

Main articles: Georgian-Ossetian conflict, South Ossetian independence referendum, 2006, and 2008 Georgia-Russia crisis

Detailed map of the Caucasus region (1994), including locations of economically important energy and mineral resources: South Ossetia has reserves of lead and zinc, Abkhazia has coal, and Georgia has oil, gold, copper, manganese, and coal.
Detailed map of the Caucasus region (1994), including locations of economically important energy and mineral resources: South Ossetia has reserves of lead and zinc, Abkhazia has coal, and Georgia has oil, gold, copper, manganese, and coal.

Conflicts in the Former Soviet Union


Nagorno-Karabakh – 1st South Ossetia – 1st Abkhazia – Georgia – North Ossetia – Transnistria – Tajikistan – Russia – 1st Chechnya – 2nd Abkhazia – Dagestan – 2nd Chechnya – 2nd South Ossetia
Georgia-Russia
relations (1989–2008)

* Internal conflicts in Georgia
o Georgian Civil War
o Georgian-Ossetian conflict
o Georgian-Abkhazian conflict
o Rose Revolution (2003)
o Adjara crisis (2004)
* 2006 Georgia-Russia crisis
o Gas pipeline sabotage
o Ban of wines
o Kodori crisis
o Espionage controversy
o Deportation of Georgians
* 2007 Alleged air space violations
o Helicopter attack incident
o Missile incident
o Plane downing incident
* 2007 Russian ambassador controversy
* 2007 Georgian demonstrations
* 2008 Georgia-Russia crisis
* 2008 South Ossetia war


South Ossetia interests

The Ossetians are a distinct Iranian ethnic group whose origin lies along the Don River. They came to the Caucasus after they were driven out of their homeland by Mongol invasions in the 13th century. Some of them settled in the territory now known as North Ossetia (currently part of Russia), and South Ossetia (currently part of Georgia).

South Ossetia currently has a Georgian ethnic minority of around one fifth (14,000) of the total population (70,000). The region, which is one and a half times the area of Luxembourg (roughly 6% of the total territory of Georgia) broke away from Georgia in the 1991–1992 war (in which more than 2,000 people are believed to have died). The BBC suggests that the South Ossetians wanted their 'Ossetian' ethnic group identity retained and did not want to remain citizens of Georgia. A force with 500 troops each from Russia, North Ossetia-Alania (part of Russia), South Ossetia and Georgia monitored a 1992 truce. The full independence of South Ossetia was supported by 99% of South Ossetia's civil population according to the South Ossetian independence referendum with 95.2% of the population registered in areas under rebel administration participating in the referendum.

Georgia's interests

Georgia accuses Russia of the annexation of its internationally recognized territory and installing a puppet government led by Eduard Kokoity and several officials who previously served in Russian FSB and Army. Sporadic clashes between separatist and Georgian forces have killed dozens of people in the previous few years. Restoring South Ossetia and Abkhazia (a region with a similar separatist movement) to Georgian control has been a goal of Saakashvili since the Rose Revolution. Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili proposed a new peace accord, under which South Ossetia would be given "a large degree of autonomy" within a federal state. Separatist leaders are instead demanding full independence.

Russian interests

Reuters describes the South Ossetian separatist government as "dependent on Russia", which "supplies two thirds of their annual budget," and reports that the Russian state-controlled gas company Gazprom has made "investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars" in South Ossetia., although no references or evidence is provided in the anonymous article.

Furthermore, the majority of the residents of South Ossetia are Russian citizens holding Russian passports. According to the BBC, "more than half of South Ossetia's 70,000 citizens are said to have taken up Moscow's offer of a Russian passport. "Russian President Dmitry Medvedev asserts that 90% of South Ossetia residents possess them. Russia, thus, describes its intervention as a peacekeeping operation to protect its citizens.

Military conflict - Timeline

The first seven days of august saw troop build up by Georgia. On August 7, 2008, Georgia launched a military offensive to capture the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali. Russia threatened to respond . On August 8, 2008, Russia sent troops across the Georgian border to South Ossetia to to defend South Ossetians against "a genocide by Georgian forces" and stop Georgia’s massive offensive against its breakaway territory in which some 2,000 civilians (at least 1000) and about 20 Russian peacekeepers were killed. In five days of fighting the Russian forces recaptured the regional capital Tskhinvali, pushed back Georgian troops, and largely destroyed Georgia’s military infrastructure in airstrikes deep inside its territory. On August 12, Russia agreed to a EU sponsored peace plan.

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