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Russia’s role in Abkhazia

By Messenger Staff
Friday, August 16
On August 14th, Georgia commemorated the 21st anniversary of the beginning of the military operations in Abkhazia. On August 14, 1992 violence broke out between Georgian police forces and Abkhaz separatists. This quickly escalated into an all-out war that lasted 13 months and 13 days and resulted in more than ten thousand casualties from both sides and the loss of Abkhazia for Georgia.

Russia was and remains responsible for much of what happened. Russian mercenaries, many of them from the North Caucasus, fought on the Abkhaz side during the war and many experts think the conflict was really between Georgia and Russia. Several Georgian politicians have commented on this issue. United National Movement (UNM) parliamentarians have criticized Minister of Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili's statement which did not mention Russia’s subversive role in the conflict.

Members of the UNM admit that Georgia committed serious errors leading up and including the conflict; they also acknowledge that most ethnic Abkhaz have a negative view of Georgia. But they claim ignoring ethnic cleansing and Russian legitimization of Abkhazia's sovereignty is basically an anti-Georgian point of view to hold. They also stress that most Georgians know that Russia played a key-role in creating the confliction.

In his statement, Zakareishvili stated that the war was a "big mistake" but never once mentioned Russian involvement in encouraging and arming Abkhaz separatists.

Zakareishvili stressed that Georgia’s current government has instituted a new policy in regards to the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The minister stated that Georgia is ready to protect the interests of South Ossetians and Abkhaz and is committed to have peaceful relations between all ethnic groups in Georgia.

The Georgian Dream government came to power with slogans of normalizing relations with Russia and its policies have demonstrated sensitivity about not irritating Moscow. The current government has also made efforts to have direct dialogue with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. In addition, the current government has also blamed President Saakashvili for the 2008 war with Russia.

The UNM, however, continues to blame Russia entirely for the August War.

It is obvious that Russia is behind of all the events that have occurred in the breakaway regions. Sooner or later, Georgia will have to confront the issue of whether it can really expect to restore its territorial integrity or not. Flirting with Russia will not solve the issue.

The problem facing the current government is enormous and will very likely take more than a generation to resolve.