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Russia’s unique understanding of ceasefire agreements

By M. Alkhazashvili
Monday, August 25
Russia is not going to fulfill the conditions of the ceasefire agreement signed by President Medvedev. It is creating so-called “buffer zones” outside the conflict area and not returning its forces to their positions of August 6, as stipulated in the agreement mediated by French President Sarkozy. Thus the Kremlin seeks to legalize its occupation and take control of the main highway connecting East Georgia to the ports of Poti and Batumi, undermining both Georgia’s sovereignty and its transit function.

The Russian promise to pull out appears to be a bluff spun by Moscow to calm down the West. The Kremlin retains complete control of the separatist territories, rapidly creating a border infrastructure and trying to grab extra lands through designating other areas “buffer zones.”

Anatoly Nogovitsyn, spokesman for the Russian armed forces, says that Russia does not intend to discuss the buffer zone issue with Georgia. He also says that Russia would be the only party taking the decision on the size of its ongoing “peacekeeping contingent.” The Russian position is clear. They intend to keep the occupied territories for ever and are trying to legalize this outrageous conduct.

Moscow’s appetite was bigger to begin with, as it wanted extended buffer territories. Now it has retreated a bit but is still keeping its stronghold in the port of Poti 40 kilometres from the buffer zone. The Russians justify this action by claiming that NATO ships carrying humanitarian cargo are approaching Georgian territorial waters and they are going to meet them there, though there is nothing concerning this in the ceasefire agreement.

Another issue is the legal basis for the buffer zone existing at all. General Nogovitsyn claims that the buffer zone is legitimate and has been established in compliance with the both the recent ceasefire agreement and those concluded after previous conflicts over the separatist zones. However he is shamelessly lying. The treaty of the early 90s stated that Russia’s role was as a peacekeeper and neutral mediator, not an open aggressor in the conflict. Georgia has also left the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and the Russians were given a peacekeeping mandate within the framework of both countries being members of this organization. Moreover, if we rely on this document one of its clauses clearly states that the Georgian police has the right to be stationed at both ends of the Roki Tunnel and to control it. So if that agreement is valid, all its paragraphs should be activated, not only those parts taken out context by the Russians and interpreted in their own way.

Every internationally respected commentator agrees that under the present circumstances the only valid document to be followed is the 6- point agreement signed by the Presidents of Russia and Georgia and mediated by French President Sarkozy. All other documents are now invalid, as, for example, analyst Mamuka Areshidze says in the Alia newspaper. The Sarkozy document says nothing about buffer zones. Moreover the additional amendments of August 14 and 16 made by Sarkozy don’t mention buffer zones at all.

Russia’s arrogant decision to create these illegal zones immediately drew an acute reaction from the Presidents of the USA and France who agreed that Russia is not following the ceasefire agreement. Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Eka Tkeshelashvili evaluates the buffer zone plans as an attempt to control Georgia and further undermine its development.

It is clear that neither Georgia nor Western countries agree with Russia’s intentions. They cannot legitimize their wicked plans, but to force them to withdraw from Georgia will require very serious, joint, consistent and permanent pressure.