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Tbilisi marks one year since the August war, authorities issue a report

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, August 10
Russian ‘tanks’ were seen in the centre of Tbilisi on August 7, one year after the Russian-Georgian war. However unlike last year Georgians on Rustaveli Avenue passed them without fear. The tanks, together with Soviet flags flying along the street, were part of an outdoor installation called “The way from treaty to occupation”, erected by the Reaction Movement, who said it showed “226 years of the conquest and occupation of Georgia by Russia.”

Several thousand Georgians gathered to see the installation, including some who had been directly affected by war. Tamta Kilasonia came with her kids, 5-year-old Dea and 8-year-old Archil, who had Georgian flags in their hands. Kilasonia said that she had passed through a bombed-out Gori with her children on August 9, while fleeing Western Georgia. “We all went through terrible fear. I was in Samegrelo on holiday with my two kids and fled back to Tbilisi via Gori,” Kilasonia noted “We were glued to the window of the car, expecting a bomb to fall any minute. We are unable to forget those days. Even now, after a year, when I see a plane I get a feeling that the war has started again. I hope it will never be repeated,” she added.

A day before, on the eve of the anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war, the Georgian Government issued its report on the August war. The document, called The Report on the Aggression by the Russian Federation against Georgia, includes sections about the genesis of the conflict since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a general review of developments in the conflict zones in the nineties, the rise of anti-Georgian forces in 1999 and the period following the Rose Revolution. The report also includes copies of the peace plans proposed by the Georgian Government to the de facto authorities. The situation in the conflict zone from July 19 to August 6 2008 is also described in the document, followed by the military operations from August 7 to August 17, 2008, “the occupation of Georgian territories and efforts to ‘secure’ and legalise the occupation”. “Georgia acted in self-defence,” the last chapter of the report says. Two CDs with video and audio materials on the August war are attached to the document, some of them including materials previously treated as state secrets, officials said.

The Minister for Conflicts Resolution and Reintegration, Temur Iakobashvili, said at the presentation of the report that Georgia had never had internal conflicts. “This fact becomes obvious after reading this report,” he said. “The thing we called separatism was just a tool Russia used against Georgia’s statehood,” he added. The Minister said restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity is only possible through peaceful means. “The Georgian population and international society have a right to know what happened in reality, in order to assess the events correctly. Without making a right diagnosis it will be impossible to completely de-occupy our territories,” Iakobashvili said.

Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze said it becomes obvious from the materials attached to the report that the Georgian Government tried to avoid the war with Russia. “However, Russia had planned military intervention in Georgia in advance,” the Foreign Minister said. EU Special Envoy to Georgia Peter Semneby, who also attended the presentation on Thursday, assessed the document as “important”. He said the August events should be investigated. Semneby noted that the conflict is not over yet, suggesting that it might “freeze again”. However, he said the conflict should be solved and “ways for solving the problem should be found by all means.”

Analysts have suggested that the Government should translate the report into Russian. Political scientist Mamuka Areshidze said the Russian side should also know what the Georgian side thinks about the events of last August and what materials it possesses. He said the Georgian Government made the “right decision” by issuing the report. “Releasing this document means the Government respects society,” Areshidze said. The Georgian authorities have said a further, more complete report will be issued soon.

Meanwhile the Georgian media has reported that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has sent a letter to French President Nikolas Sarkozy saying that after the August war a “new reality” has been established in the Transcaucasus region. Medvedev says “it is hardly possible to neglect the independent existence of two new states,” referring to the de facto republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are recognised by Russia and Nicaragua only. In his letter, Medvedev stresses the necessity of Georgia and its breakaway regions signing a non-use of force agreement, saying that this is the only way to help avoid “new splashes of violence.” The Russian President called on the international community to refrain from supplying Georgia with arms.