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Georgia’s occupied territories

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, August 12
The second anniversary of 08/08/08 is over and the reality is that almost 1/4 of country’s territory is occupied by Russia. So far, there is no visible strategy available on how to de-occupy these territories, however this does not mean that Georgia should not be prepared for such an opportunity. Everything possible should be done in this direction – one of the steps is international recognition of the term occupation, occupied territories and occupier in regards of this reality. Moscow is trying to promote its ‘new reality’: International recognition of the "sovereignty" of these territories, which fortunately has only been adopted by three marginal countries: Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru.

International opinion worldwide supports the Georgian version of reality and acknowledges these territories as occupied by Russia. US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton during her recent visit to Georgia repeated the term occupation several times, greatly pleasing the Georgian side although it has been diluted with skepticism that this terminology is used only verbally since no official documents whatsoever have been issued or published about the matter.

Here are some statistics: before August 8, 2008 separatists controlled 7300 sq. km out of 8600 sq. km of Abkhazia. In Tskhinvali region separatists controlled 2900 sq. km of 3 800 sq. km of the former autonomous region of south Ossetia. In total Russia presently occupies an additional 4610 sq. km making the total occupied area in Georgia of 17 010 sq. km; this is 24.4 % of entire territory of Georgia, which is 69 700 sq. km.

The separatists' official information states that 74 000 Abkhaz national passports have been issued: 32 000 passports for Armenian ethnicities, 18 000 passports to Russian ethnicities, 12 000 passports to Georgian ethnicities. According to claims of the separatist authorities there are currently 320 000 people living in Abkhazia. According to Tbilisi this is an unrealistic figure as the government-in-exile of Abkhazia’s autonomous republic reports that the total number currently living in Abkhazia is no more than 167 000 people, the majority of whom are Armenians – 57 000, then Georgians – 46 000, Abkhazians – 34 000, then Russians 23 000 and so on.

In addition there are around 5 000 Russian soldiers deployed in Abkhazia. Russians are hastily buying real estate in the Abkhazian territory and as we know the Russian government promised Russian officers serving in Abkhazia that they could settle there after their service is over. The entire budget of Abkhazia depends on Moscow.

According to certain sources among the Abkhazian ethnic population there is fear mounting of a trend towards the complete assimilation of Abkhazian ethnicity to Russia and thus the threat that this ethnicity will vanish. Georgia’s other breakaway territory – so-called South Ossetia is even more bound to Russia. According to separatists' information there are 30 000 Ossetians in the region, of which 17 000 live in Tskhinvali. There are up to 2 500 Georgians altogether in the region. The force brigade of the Russian army is deployed in the territory, officially amounting to 3008 troops. There are three major bases in Tskhinvali, Java and Kanchaveti village. There are an extra 900 soldiers – so called border guards deployed along the administrative border between Georgia and its breakaway territory. The entire south Ossetian economy depends on Russia. 90% of products enter the territory from Russia and they are very expensive. Since the August war the separatist regime in the territory has received almost USD 840 million from Moscow. However many accuse the current president and his environment of misusing this money, putting most of it into their pockets.

The second term of the so called presidency of Eduard Kokoity is expiring and several people around him are being considered as his possible successors.

Georgia's Minister for reintegration, Temur Iakobashvili thinks that Georgia’s disintegration is not acceptable to the world community. However this reality does not change Russia’s ambition and effort to continue occupying the Georgian territories. Obviously Georgia should continue its international activities worldwide, entering any kind of bilateral talks and airing at any level international forum about Russia’s aggression and its occupation of Georgia’s territories.