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Russia will support Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence

By David Matsaberidze
Tuesday, August 26
The members of Russia’s upper house of Parliament, the Council of the Federation, officially supported the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on August 25, by 130 votes. This was a risky decision, in the light of recent developments in Georgian-Russian relations.

The self-declared Presidents of the two breakaway regions of Georgia delivered speeches in the Duma, once again asking to Moscow for “support and defend of our small nations, their language and self-sustainability”.

The Chairman of the Council of the Federation, Sergey Mironov, had stated that “the Council of the Federation is ready to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, if the peoples of the two republics want it and there is a relevant decision by the President of Russia” a couple of days earlier, on August 20.

The Parliament of breakaway Abkhazia convened in special session on August 20, to discuss an appeal to the President and Parliament of the Russian Federation, asking for recognition. “We will request that they recognize the independence of our Republic,” Civil Georgia quoted the Speaker of the self-declared Abkhaz Parliament Nugzar Ashuba as saying. The appeal highlights the deaths of thousands of civilians in South Ossetia as a result of the recent escalation of the situation, following “the provocations of Georgia and the refusal of the Georgian leadership to build normal relations with the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”

The President of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, confirmed Russia’s support for the decision of the Ossetian and Abkhaz people and confirmed that Russian legislators will demand the creation of an international tribunal to investigate crime that took place against civilians in these regions. Sergey Mironov, chairman of the Council of the Federation, termed this decision as “historic.” The Council of the Federation “fully supports” the policies of President Medvedev towards breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The self-declared President of breakaway Abkhazia, Sergey Bagapsh, stressing his “full authority” to speak in the name of South Ossetians as well, stated that “Neither Abkhazia, nor South Ossetia will be a part of the Georgian state.”

The head of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Georgian Parliament, Lasha Zvania, responded by saying that the case is very serious and the international community should immediately respond to the Russian statement as it threatens the whole international order. “The territorial integrity of the Georgian state is now judicially targeted by the State legislative structure of the Russian Federation”, Interpressnews agency quoted Zvania as saying. He added that Russia will be supported by only a few countries, like Syria, Venezuela and Cuba, meaning that the decision will lead Russia into self-imposed international isolation. Zvania hopes for a severe international reaction, as the Russian decision “undermines the existing norms of international order.” As Zvania stated the international community will give Russia an opportunity to step back, as Russians are themselves aware they are being driven to deadlock.

The Head of the Parliamentary Committee for European Integration, Davit Darchiashvili, termed the decision the “judicial continuation of the Russian intervention in Georgia”, while stating that “recognition can only come from the international community, not a particular aggressor state.” According to Darchiashvili the territorial integrity of Georgia is supported by the UN, NATO, OSCE and the EU, therefore the decision by the Russian Federation undermines these organisations as well.

The opposition MP and the head of the Parliamentary Minority Giorgi Targamadze stated that the decision of the Duma was expected after Russia’s military aggression in Georgia and the appeal was merely the latest of many. Targamadze does not expect Medvedev to grant the appeal, adding that “nothing will change while Russian soldiers are already in the conflict zones of Georgia, as this recognition will not have any significance from the international point of view”.

Opposition MP Paata Davitaia suggested that the Georgian Government declares the leaders of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia internationally wanted criminals, thus creating one more obstacle to Russia for the international community.

In parallel with discussing the statement about recognition, the Duma hosted a photo exhibition called “South Ossetia – Chronicle of Genocide.” Not surprisingly in this climate, the Head of the Press Office of the breakaway South Ossetia region, Irina Gagloeva, has hampered accredited Georgian journalists from collecting information from “primary sources.”

Political expert Ramaz Sakvarelidze, in an interview with The Messenger, stated that “the decision of the Duma was long expected and does not come as a surprise for Georgia, although we should wait and see whether the Executive branch will support the declaration or it will be blocked at that stage like the previous one.” Sakvarelidze recalled recent developments over the issue, admitting that Sergei Lavrov and German counterparts Steinmeier have already discussed the issue of peacekeeping operations, hence the contradiction between recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions and the maintenance of Russian-led peacekeeping operations there.

Sakvarelidze draws a parallel between Georgia’s breakaway regions and the situation in Cyprus. He stresses that Russia will try and play the same card against Georgia – creating and maintaining unilateral recognition of separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia, thus firming up another precedent for the international community.

“Whether Russia manages to make the second case we will see in time, as its ability to do so strongly depends on the reaction of the international community. All depends on one thing: whether the leading countries of the world will manage to mobilize against Russia or not.”