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Russians are leaving Perevi

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, October 19
The 13th round of the Geneva talks yielded some positive results for Georgia. We have learned that Russian soldiers were ordered to withdraw from the Georgian village of Perevi adjacent to the Russian occupied territory in Tskhinvali region. The two sides (Russia and Georgia) however have completely different views regarding the move. The Georgians think that this is only the beginning of the de-occupation process, while the Russians state that they have finished their withdrawal from Georgian territory as the rest is not Georgian territory at all. Moreover they are presenting the move as an act of goodwill and are expecting some concessions in return from Georgia.

The village of Perevi has never been part of the communist-created South Ossetian autonomous district, but it has a strategically important location and the Russians wanted to keep it. In December 2008, shortly after the war, the Russians were prepared to leave Perevi village following a request of the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II. However the Georgian leadership made a loud fuss about it, almost presenting it as a Georgian victory and the beginning of the Russian withdrawal from Georgian territory that the Russians reacted angrily. They returned to Perevi, re-occupying it again, kicking out the Georgian military and police force from the village.

This time around Georgian officials are once more presenting the Russian move as part of Moscow’s commitments under the Sarkozy-Medvedev ceasefire agreement and as the first step towards a complete withdrawal – the step which Russia should have taken long ago.

Some Georgian analysts believe that the removal of Russian forces from Perevi is the result of international public opinion and pressure on the Kremlin as well as an achievement of Georgian diplomacy. Analyst Nika Chitadze optimistically thinks that relations between Russia and the west have warmed, Russia needs western technologies and it may well take more similar steps in the future. Other analysts are less cheerful suggesting that the Russians consider Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region as independent states as they are within the administrative border of Abkhazian autonomous republic and South Ossetia autonomous district. Therefore these entities are no longer Georgian territories and Perevi was the only place which was not originally under South Ossetian jurisdiction. So, there will be no other similar moves by Moscow.

Deputy Foreign Minister and head of the Georgian Delegation to Geneva, Giga Bokeria stated that it is impossible to reach agreement with Russia on the issue of complete de-occupation of Georgian territories and the return of IDPs. However he says that the process will continue until Russia changes its general attitude towards Georgia and other neighbouring countries. Unfortunately it is hard to believe that Russian policy will change in the desired direction in the near future. Georgian de-occupation will most probably be a long term process.