Russia signs border control agreement with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali
By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, May 1
According to agreements signed on April 30, Russian troops will guard the administrative borders of the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The border treaty was signed in Moscow by President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and the leaders of the separatist regions, Sergey Baghapsh and Eduard Kokoity. Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia agree to “deliver the authority of border defence” to Russia, “until the formation of border guard departments.” The texts of the agreements say that this decision was made “in the interests of our own security and the security of the Russian Federation.” The separatist regions have taken on the obligation to provide any requested assistance to the Russian border guards including the use of air space, airports, meteorological and navigational data etc.
A special paragraph in the treaty forbids the de facto authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from arresting or searching Russian soldiers, if they are not “detained on the location of the committed crime.” Russian soldiers and the property of Russian troops are also free from any taxes on the territory controlled by the separatists. The agreement is signed for five years and will be automatically prolonged for an indefinite period unless either side withdraws from it.
This agreement was preceded by several agreements on “cooperation” between Russia and the Georgian breakaway regions. According to these Russia will deploy up to 4,000 soldiers in each of the separatist territories. Naval and air bases in Abkhazia and land bases in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia will also be opened. Georgia has protested against all these actions, describing them as the occupation of Georgian territory and violations of the ceasefire agreement which obliges both sides to withdraw their forces to the positions they held before the start of the August 2008 conflict.
The border agreement has already provoked negative comment. "This is in clear contravention of the 12 August and 8 September agreements negotiated by the European Union and is not in the interests of long-term peace and security in the South Caucasus region," said NATO spokesman James Appathurai yesterday, as quoted by Reuters. The Tbilisi-backed de jure administration of South Ossetia has also declared that the border agreement “violates international law.”
“We consider that the agreement signed between Moscow, Tskhinvali and Sokhumi is further proof of the fact that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not independent states but occupied territories with puppet Governments. The presence of Russian border guards in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is a direct violation of the ceasefire agreement signed through the mediation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. This clearly worsens the situation in the security zone and the whole region and practically stifles the attempts [at a normalization of the situation] being made within the framework of the Geneva talks format,” says a special statement issued by the South Ossetian Temporary Administration. The statement also appeals to the international community to “pay attention to the illegal actions of Russia and Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are directed towards the entrenching of Russian troops in the occupied areas and inducing the failure of the negotiation process.”