On Ninth Anniversary of Russian-Georgian war, Putin visits de facto Abkhazia
By Tina Tskhovrebadze
Wednesday, August 9August 8, 2008 is a painful day in the history of independent Georgia. On this day the Russian –Georgian war started, as a result of which more than 400 citizens died (half of them were peaceful residents of Georgia), 1747 were wounded and 150 000 left their homes in the war against the Russian occupation. Russian Army came through the Roki Tunnel into the Tskhinvali Region (de facto South Ossetia). Russian aviation bombed Georgian villages, airdromes and military bases. Russians bombed Gori, Poti Port, Senaki and Marneuli military bases. The Russian 58th army occupied Akhalgori district, Upper Abkhazia (Zemo Afkhazeti as it is called in Georgian), Zugdidi, several villages of Gori district. The war, which lasted for five days, was interrupted by the Ceasefire Agreement on August 12, 2008. However, Russia still has not fulfilled its obligations and continues occupation of the Georgian land with barbed wires and fire protection zones at the de facto border with Georgia.
This week Russia demonstrated another method to show her power over the breakaway regions of Georgia. The President of Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin visited breakaway region of Abkhazia. Putin had a meeting with de facto leader of Abkhazia Raul Khajimba on August 8.
Vladimir Zantaria, advisor of de facto President of Abkhazia, said that “Putin’s visit has a huge meaning for Abkhazia as there is no peace in the world and big states oppose each other. Putin’s visit to Abkhazia is not a visit for only acknowledging socio-economic situation here.” According to Zantaria, the President of Russia knows despite of its small size “Abkhazia plays a strategic role in the geopolitics. We are a buffer zone. The questions that arise at the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Raul Khajimba will define the direction of development of the Republic,” he added.
Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, State Minister of Georgia for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, had a clear assessment of this visit.
“Putin’s visit to Abkhazia on this tragic day August 8, after 9 years from the Russian aggression, is an open message that Russia keeps on the occupation of Georgian lands and strengthens her exclusive control over these territories. Our response and message is very open and clear too – we will not accept the occupation,” she stressed.
Levan Izoria, Minister of Defense of Georgia, declares that Georgia with the International Community is consolidated against unfair actions of Russia, which violate the international standards.
The President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, also evaluated Putin’s visit to Abkhazia. He said the visit of Russian President is an ineffective attempt to legitimate historical unfairness. This way Putin seeks to justify Russian occupation of Georgian land conducted in 2008 and the decision of the Russian government to break Georgia into pieces.
“None of the Georgians will ever recognize the occupation. None of the barbed wires, fire protection zones and fake borders will break the unity and firmness of our country,” stated President Margvelashvili.
In response to the Russian occupation, residents of Georgia made a live chain near the occupation line. One of the organizers, David Katsarava states that they “want to show a protest against the Russian occupation that has not stopped after 2008 and started 200 years ago. We try to unite civil society to show the protest and fight for the de-occupation of Georgia.”
It is hard to predict how and when the dispute over the occupied Georgian land will be settled, but nine years after the war, it is a fact that due to its unfair and violent politics Russia remains an unfavorable political partner for peaceful development of the region.